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Genetic screening software for future parenthood before you find a partner

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Virtual progeny: There's software for genetic screening so people can take a look at what your future baby might look like before you even meet your mate. You may wish to check out the April 11, 2014 article about the Genetic Literacy Project by Meredith Knight, "Pick the baby, then the mate?" That noteworthy article describes a software program such as Matchright from startup GenePeeks. See, "Genepeeks' Sperm Bank Acquisition Heralds Genome Screening of Virtual Progeny." The trend is about the future of potential parenthood through genetic screening, at least on software.

What are the ethics and discussions behind the trend at least on computer software (no embryos) to design your ideal child using just a sample of each parent’s DNA and a lot of computer processing power? Imagine a person choosing eye, hair, and skin texture, tone, behavior moods, and genetically inherited diseases or the lack of them? You also may wish to check out another article, "Is the ‘designer baby’ debate more about gene patentability?" at the Genomics Law Report website.

If you take a look at the Matchright company website, you can read how it screens sperm and egg donors. The goal is to provide a pool of donors, where a person can choose sperm and egg matches to artificially inseminate a woman, yourself or your surrogate, with a match you select. There is no embryo involved. It's a software program that gives you information on your computer on the subject of genetic screening.

The company screens for over 600 diseases, about 100 times what most sperm banks test their donors for. Two US fertility centers will start using the program in mid-April 2014, says Knight's article. It will cost $1995 for the service, says the April 11, 2014 article, "Is the ‘designer baby’ debate more about gene patentability?"

Testing consists of the software program designing hypothetical kids, about 10,000 of them from each potential pair of parents. It's all simulated on a computer. Nobody is mixing cells. The goal is to screen to genetic diseases.

You also can check out the April 5, 2014 article by Catherine de Lange appearing in the Observer, from the website of the Guardian, a UK-based publication, "Startup offering DNA screening of 'hypothetical babies' raises fears over designer children." The official US launch is in mid-April and then the team plans to expand it internationally.

Screening by software also includes a list of diseases such as cancers, stroke and asthma down to memory, hip circumference, BMI, nicotine dependence and eye and skin pigmentation

“The patent covers any disease or trait that has a genetic influence,” according to that article. But why include a measurement such as hip circumference? It's because some studies say that the ideal health result is where a person gains weight on the hips and thighs rather than just on the belly while the hips remain narrow and the thighs don't gain weight because the fat gets stored around the abdomen and its organs. You may wish to check out articles such as "'Forget BMI, just measure your waist and height' say scientists " and "Larger your waist line shorter is your life span! - AAPI." Will genetic screening of peoples' waist-to-hip ratio in the future lead to discrimination based on perceived life span predictions? Or should parents consider the wait and hip measurements of their future child before they even choose a partner? Do men prefer women with huge hips and tiny waists as signs of health and easy childbearing? See, "Eternal Curves | Psychology Today."

The genetic screening software is not just for cosmetic reasons to choose a child with unique combinations of eye, hair, skin, or nose shapes

It's about finding out if a parental pairing could result in a child who's going to develop a health condition that comes on in adulthood and greatly affects the person's health. The company first has to identify which mutations matter most to potential parents. Now the issue of ethics comes in to play.

Should parents even screen for waist circumference or BMI of their future child? Should such a description go on the list? And is that discrimination against apple-shaped people, said to have more health issues than pear-shaped people due to fat accumulation on the belly instead of on the hips and thighs? Noteworthy is that another company mentioned on the 23 and me blog has a software tool called the Family Traits Inheritance Calculator.

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