Reprogenetics: ‘A Glimpse of Things to Come’

What is reprogenetics?

Reprogenetics, or ‘Assisted Reproductive Technology’, ‘ART’ for short is a group of various medical procedures to address infertility.

The procedure bypasses the process of sexual intercourse where fertilization occurs in the laboratory.

Undoubtedly, such procedures have brought joy to those couples who have had trouble conceiving.

In the 21st century, there are a multitude of procedures available depending on the specific reproductive problem.

Some of the procedures available include:

Ovulation induction, where the ovarian follicles are stimulated to promote development.

In vitro fertilization, a technique which allows fertilization of the gametes occur outside of the female body; there are a whole host of procedures available in this category.

Pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, conducted on embryos prior to implantation

Human evolution?

The potential for such procedures to medically advance the human race are huge.

Humans could be ‘engineered’ to be resistant, even impervious to life threatening diseases, where futurists propose reprogenetics is one potential avenue to the human race transitioning to a ‘post-human’ state.

Descriptions of the not-too-distant-future describe the eradication of currently incurable disease.

‘a sub-microscopic piece of DNA – an extra gene – that will be present in every cell of the human body, providing lifelong resistance to infection from, for example, the virus that causes AIDS’

Another glimpse into the future shows the need for computer generated images of a child’s likeness being obsolete.

‘the mother will already have thousands of pictures of her child’s likeness; real, not virtual, for the foetus inside her womb will be her identical twin sister, her clone’

When the child is born, she will be able to see exactly what she looks like in the future just by looking at her mother.

Ethical issues

Some will warn that a reprogenetics programme is not too far removed from fascist policies of the 1930s & 1940s.

There is an argument that ‘designing’ children is a resurfacing of the Lebensborn project in Nazi Germany.

Others argue that meddling in a natural process is ‘playing God’ and warn of associated risks.

And to this end, there are some studies which suggest that ART is associated with an increased risk of birth defects such as low birth weight and gestational diabetes.  

Usage in the UK

All patients have the right to preliminary testing provided free through the NHS.

There can however be long waiting lists, and so some patients pay for immediate treatment with the NHS or through private clinics.

Since 2013, NICE published new guidelines about who should have access to ART procedures.

‘women aged between 40 and 42 should be offered one cycle of IVF on the NHS if they have never had treatment before’  

Currently, treatment is to simply assist in the conceiving of a child for those couples who struggle.

Although, the vast potential for the technology shows a whole host of medical benefits which must be weighed up against perhaps devastating costs.