Test to predict the IQ of the Embryo for IVF will soon be available in the US

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Visual representation of In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) Embryo screening
Image Courtesy: Freepik

Looks like Eugenics left its traces that are going to haunt us forever. According to the New Scientist, a new genetic test will be able to predict which embryo is most likely to result in a lower IQ during the IVF (In Vitro Fertilization).

In IVF, the sperm is made to fertilize the ova from a female outside the body under closely monitored lab conditions. Once fertilized, the embryo screening takes place where the embryo that is deemed fit (no possible chromosomal errors) is used further for the implantation. The embryos are screened primarily by their morphology.

People have certain genetic diseases that have the probability of either not affecting the phenotypic (observable) traits of the child or eliminating the gene that caused it also choose IVF to make sure that their child is born healthy. These include Cystic fibrosis, chromosomal abnormalities like Down’s syndrome, etc.

According to the firm Genomic Prediction, these genetic tests will be able to identify ‘complex traits’ such as the risk of certain diseases and intelligence. For intelligence, you will be able to predict which embryos are most likely to have a mental disability. Note that the test will show which embryo has a ‘higher risk’ of having a low IQ. As for the genes that could result in the embryos with higher IQ, the firm’s co-founder, Stephen Hsu, stated:

“I think people are going to demand that. If we don’t do it, some other company will,”

The firm made it clear that it won’t offer the option of choosing the embryo with high IQ level. It is the first firm to have come up with a means to screen embryos for polygenic traits. The firm, however, has opened up the gateway for choosing the high IQ level embryo in the future.

“If it doesn’t happen in the US, it will happen in another country,”

-Kevin Mitchell, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland

Up till now, the embryos were screened for the chromosomal errors. The research on screening embryos for intelligence has been going on from quite some time now. Recent advances and recurrent works by scientists around the globe indicate that it is possible to screen embryos for intelligence in IVF now.

A report by Shulman and Bostrom gave multiple pieces of evidence as to how the IQ level can have social as well as economical implications in a person’s life. Well, we all know that smart people are more likely to have better jobs, but the stats are appalling. But does that give us all the more reason to screen embryos for intelligence before implantation in IVF?

It is because of this ethical concern that the firm has made it very cleared how it is going to use the test. Eugenics was a nightmare and introducing anything slightly as similar can have some serious repercussions. Not to forget that the idea of Sociogenomics has its roots in Eugenics. Tests of such nature should only be restricted to prevention of the severe diseases not to exalt exceptional traits, the majority argues.

“If we consider inclusion and diversity to be a measure of societal progress, then IQ screening proposals are unethical,”

– Lynn Murray, Don’t Screen Us Out supporter

Is this a revolution in genetics or warning for a corrected future? Do let us know what you think in the comments section below!

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