The Benefits of PGD

This post was written by a student in Lynn Reid’s Writing for the Sciences class at the City College of New York. After researching a scientifically debatable topic and writing about it for an audience of academic peers, this assignment asks students to present a multi-modal argument of the same topic to a popular audience.

The purpose of this project was to inform others about PGD. The uses for PGD that range from aesthetic to medical uses. Research has shown that PGD has proven to be beneficial for prospective parents in ways such as ensuring that a healthy baby will be born. This technological advance in medicine has the potential to alter humankind in the future as well. Therefore, the information provided by this project shows how PGD is truly beneficial.

There are thousands of diseases that exist in the world today. In fact, they are extremely common and contribute to the fact that humans are not perfect. Essentially, they make humans “human”. Diseases actually help to teach a person how to persevere and be resilient when faced with hardship. Compassion and empathy are traits that are learned by observing others that are ailing. (Noogard 2004) Regardless, they are not pleasant by any means. Diseases are so common in today’s world that it hard to imagine a world that is free of any type of disease. Yet, this can potentially be possible with the help of PGD. PGD is an acronym for Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis. Not only can PGD rid the world of diseases, it has the ability to essentially allow the customization of a child and increase the “fitness” of the human race.

PGD is a technology that has allowed In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) clinics to screen embryos for more than 100 potentially debilitating diseases. Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis can only be performed on embryos in vitro. In Vitro simply means that the embryos are in an artificial environment outside of the living organism. Examples of artificial environments are laboratories or culture mediums.

The diagnosis commences with the process of in vitro fertilization. Included in the in vitro process is the stimulation of the ovary, retrieval of the egg, and artificial fertilization in the laboratory. When this process is completed, the embryo is able to divide into eight cells. One of these cells is able to be extracted using a pipette. A pipette is a small glass tube that substances can be drawn into, often before it is delivered to another container. Next, a doctor will isolate and remove DNA from the cell. The DNA is replicated in a process known as Polymerase Chain Reaction. During a molecule analysis, the DNA sequence code is evaluated in order to see if a certain gene is inherited. Once the embryo is found to be free of genetic abnormalities, it is then placed into the uterine cavity. Only the embryos that meet the criteria are allowed to be implanted.

PGD is beneficial because it basically ensures that the child will be free of genetic disorders. In fact, thousands of successful cases of PGD have been preformed.  Some couples are at known risk for transmission of specific genetic diseases to their children. These diseases include Down’s Syndrome, Trisomy 21, Tay Sachs Disease, hemophilia A and B, Gaucher’s Disease, Sickle Cell Anemia, and many others. The first non-X-inked monogenic disorder that PGD was performed for was Cystic Fibrosis (CF). It is one of the most common severe, lethal genetic disorders. The median life expectancy was >30 years and it is projected that in newborn infants PGD helped to increase it to become >40 years. (“Improving clinical preimplantation genetic diagnosis for cystic fibrosis by duplex PCR using two polymorphic markers or one polymorphic marker in combination with the detection of the   F508 mutation” September 2003) Some genetic diseases can only occur in a child of a specific gender. Therefore, PGD allows the sex of the embryo to be indentified. As a result, only unaffected embryos will be transferred to the uterus.

There are numerous stories that attribute PGD to being truly life saving. PGD has been shown to not only affect of the individual embryo but, others as well. Take the story of Katie Trembing. Katie was diagnosed with Diamond Blackfan Anemia (DBA). Anemia is a term that refers to having a low red blood cell count. Diamond Blackfan Anemia is a blood condition that is present at birth as in the case of Katie. It is characterized by a failure of the bone marrow to produce red blood cells. It was imperative that Katie have a perfect match donor in order to survive. Through PGD, the Trembing family was able to produce Katie’s perfect match donor which was her brother.

The children that are produced through PGD to save the lives of their siblings have been given the name “Saviour Siblings”. They are quite common amongst PGD users. Tom and Allison and Samantha and David are couples that have had children with Fanconi Anemia which is also a condition that results in bone marrow failure. In order to extend their children’s lives past their childhood years, which is when children diagnosed with this disease are expected to die, they used PGD to produce siblings that are perfect matches for bone marrow.

PGD helps to let the prospective parents know whether or not their child will have a genetic disease. The process also helps couples with infertility. The most common reason that PGD is done in the US is for “advanced age”. The logic relates to the fact that women of advancing age have increasing rates of chromosomally abnormal eggs. These eggs, after fertilization, would become chromosomally abnormal embryos. PGD helps the situation by offering chromosomal screening of the embryos prior to choosing the best ones for transfer back to the female partner. Therefore, the chances of having a successful pregnancy are higher.

Because PGD is simply a screening process, one doesn’t have to use PGD for the purpose of screening diseases or to help with infertility. PGD has been used to create “Designer Babies”. “Designer baby” is a term used to refer to a baby whose genetic makeup has been artificially selected by genetic engineering. The procedure used to create these genetically modified babies ensures the presence or absence of particular genes or characteristics. There is a nearly 100% success rate for correctly determining the baby’s gender. In addition, 70% of the parents have no trouble conceiving the baby. Contrary to what the procedure may imply to many, a baby cannot have any gene that the parents want them to have. If none of the parents have the trait for the desired characteristic, it not possible to make the child have it. This means if the parents want the child to have blue eyes yet neither of them have the trait for blue eyes, scientists cannot make a blue-eyed baby. Yet if the parent(s) have the traits, they can determine traits such as hair color, eye color, and complexion.

Although PGD has proven to be beneficial in current times, it has the potential to have a big impact on the future. Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis is currently be used to screen for diseases, help with infertility and to create “designer babies”. The future of PGD will be to ensure the presence or absence of the mutation that causes deafness depending on the parents’ wishes. This is a possibility because research has shown that some deaf people want their children to be deaf as well so that their child can share in their culture and life experiences. (“Ethics and Future of Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis” 2005). In addition, because PGD is being used for sex selection, it will be used for desired control over gender variety. This positive is a positive aspect of the future of PGD because desired genders can be chosen with accuracy. The parents will able to know what the sex of their child will be as soon as the embryo is implanted in the uterine cavity. The parents can then prepare mentally and emotionally.

PGD can increase the “fitness” of mankind in the future. The fitness referred to here is not referring to one’s ability to perform sport related tasks. On the contrary, it refers to Charles Darwin’s theory of natural that expresses the fact that the fittest organism will survive. Darwin defined fitness as the genetic contribution of an individual to the next generation’s gene pool relative to the average for the population, usually measured by the number of offspring or close kin that survive to reproductive age. PGD’s contribution to fitness is simple. Prospective parents that use PGD will have children that are free from genetic diseases. Since these offspring have no genetic mutations to pass on, they will, in turn, produce offspring that do not have any diseases. (“Darwin’s Theory of Evolution-A Theory in Crisis” 2002) Disease is fundamentally the cause of all deaths. Therefore, without inherited diseases, humans will live longer. Along with increased longevity, PGD will increase the reproductive success and strength of humans. (Rosen 2003).

Not only can PGD increase fitness of humans, it can possibly be a gateway to “superhumans”.  The term “superhumans” refers to humans that have both computer and human qualities. Some scientists feel that the technological advances in Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis will produce technological advances in nanotechnology and robotics. Human life can possibly be refined and extended due to the developments that have been currently made in genetic engineering. Foreseeable developments in nanotechnology and robotics will also contribute to this. People are always trying to get a hold of the latest technology. The latest technology can soon be embedded in the human body.

It is evident that Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis is a very useful tool. This one technology has so many branches that it can be used for. Developments are still being made on PGD but, its future is very promising. Not only is it currently life changing, it has potential to change humans forever in the future. Whether you want to ensure a healthy baby, select your baby’s genes, or help increase your reproductive success, PGD can help!

Akua Bediako, CCNY

REFERENCES
Darwin’s Theory of Evolution-A Theory in Crisis (2002). Retrieved on March 28,2010 from
http://www.darwins-theory-of-evolution.com/
Ethics and Future of Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (2005). Retrieved on March 27, 2010
from http://www.psy.vanderbilt.edu/courses/hon182/PGD_Robertson.pdf
Improving clinical preimplantation genetic diagnosis for cystic fibrosis by duplex PCR using two
polymorphic markers or one polymorphic marker in combination with the detection of the
F508 mutation (September 2003). Retrieved on May 12, 2010, from
http://molehr.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/9/9/559
Kleiner, K. (February 2009). Designer Babies – Like It Or Not, Here They Come. Retrieved on
February 27, 2010, from http://singularityhub.com/2009/02/25/designer-babies-like-it-
or-not-here-they-come/
Norgaard, R. (March 2004). Posthuman Enough? Retrieved on March 20, 2010, from
http://caliber.ucpress.net/doi/abs/10.1641/0006-
3568(2004)054%5B0255:PE%5D2.0.CO%3B2
Rosen, C. (2003). PGD and Eugenics. Retrieved on March 13, 2020, from
http://www.thenewatlantis.com/docLib/TNA02-Rosen.pdf

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One Response to The Benefits of PGD

  1. Hi Akua. I enjoyed reading your assessment of PGD. I thought since you are interested in the subject, you might like reading my new book, which is about the Trebing family whom you mentioned and their quest to produce a savior sibling for Katie using PGD. It’s called “The Match: ‘Savior Siblings’ and One Family’s Battle to Heal Their Daughter,” and can be found on Amazon.com.

    Beth Whitehouse

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