I was reading an article about "designer babies", which was about how before birth the DNA can be modified so to achieve certain features. Can a technique such as this also be used to prevent diseases, such as down syndrome or some others, before the birth of a child? How far into the future are we to achieving something like this?


closed as primarily opinion-based by David, James, Bryan Krause, mgkrebbs, Chris Mar 2 '18 at 12:09

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Regardless of the ethical and philosophical concerns involved, it is theoretically possible to modify a child's DNA to prevent various diseases, with a few caveats.

First of all, many diseases have multiple potential causes, and there is rarely a single method which would work for every case.

Second, the actual modification is not a trivial task in eukaryotes. The more controversial method would be for a mother to be implanted with "petri dish" embryos, who have undergone gene transplantation early enough for all of the embryo's cells to be transformed. The other method involves repeated gene therapy treatments later in the child's development (and even into adulthood) which would not necessarily prevent the disease, but would minimize it's effects.

Technically it could be done right now, but to the best of my knowledge neither procedures are approved for use as of yet. Given the controversy regarding modifying a child's DNA before birth, it may never be approved, but several gene therapies are undergoing clinical trials.


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