Chinese Parents Can Now Decode Genomes of Their Babies

Genome sequencing for sale in China raises ethical questions.

June 18, 2017 5:00 am
Genome sequencing for newborns in China raises ethical questions.
Genome sequencing for newborns in China raises ethical questions. (Getty Images)

Parents worried about their child developing a life-threatening illness, or male-pattern baldness, can now do something about it.

For the price of $1,500, Chinese parents can have their newborn’s genome sequenced by Boston-based Veritas Genetics. While the service can help identify risks for disease, it also raises ethical questions about how much information a parent should have about their children’s genes so early on.

The genomic sequencing service, called myBabyGenome, tests for 200 genes related to drug reactions, over 100 physical traits, and 950 risks for different diseases a child may develop early and later in their life.

Even the test identifies a risk for a certain disease, it’s no guarantee the child will ever develop the condition. That’s why some doctors question whether parents should be given such information—especially if it means the potential for treating their son or daughter differently.

Veritas Genetics, born out ofHarvard University’s Personal Genome Project, is wading into uncharted waters by making predictions about a child’s appearance and personality, according to MIT Technology Review.

The service also raises fears of designer babies, creating tough questions for bioethicists. Is a parent more likely to put their newborn up for adoption is he or she has tested positive for being a trouble-maker or an over-eater?

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