Saturday, March 16, 2013

China is engineering genius babies

An article on Vice states that a company in China is currently using genetics to identify and determine intelligence genes in human embryos.  The biggest genetic research center in China, BGI Shenzhen, does a lot of plant, animal, and even human genetics.  BGI has collected 2000 DNA samples from the world's smartest people to sequence their genome and try and identify alleles that may be used in human intelligence.  Apparently they’re not far from finding them, and when they do, embryo screening will allow parents to pick their brightest zygote and potentially bump up every generation's intelligence by five to 15 IQ points.  Any given couple could potentially have several eggs fertilized in the lab with the dad’s sperm and the mom’s eggs. Then you can test multiple embryos and analyze which one’s going to be the smartest. That kid would belong to that couple as if they had it naturally, but it would be the smartest a couple would be able to produce if they had 100 kids. It’s not genetic engineering or adding new genes, it’s the genes that couples already have.  Over the course a few generations, a populations IQ could exponentially increase.  This process could also be used to determine other traits such as hair or eye color.  Things like body shape would be easier to do and personality traits might be a little simpler than intelligence.  This type of research does open up the door potentially to genetic engineering in the future.  Here is some more information about genome sequencing.


  1. Ah...genetically engineered human beings. How many times has Sci-fi warned us of the potential rewards and hazards of such flirtations with nature. Not to get too geeky on everyone but 3 Star Trek episodes come to mind: First, was when the crew of the Enterprise came across a colony of genetically engineered humans that were threatened by a colliding asteroid. Their salvation came from the blind engineer's visual device. The moral being, that necessity is still the mother of invention and the not-so-perfect among us are valuable. Second, was Dr. Bashir; a genetically engineered human who became a medical genius that saved countless lives to include creating a vaccine that saved an entire species. And finally, I can sum up the legacy that the last genetically engineered problem-child for the Enterprise left behind by simply saying . . . Khaaaaaaan!!

  2. I guess the real worry here is behind the ethics of changing the path of the future generation. By skewing the intelligence scale, we skew a lot of socioeconomic factors in the process. In some, or even many, cases -- they're good. But if you have a large influx of intelligent people, they somehow need to work & make money, and if you don't have the demand for such, you're toast. I mean right now, China's greatest contribution to society is being able to make tons of Gadgets really fast with low pay -- Something that won't support this intelligent society. I feel like China might actually do a disservice to themselves unless they're planning on doing something I'm not aware about.

    And let's not even get to "What could possibly go wrong" when it comes to the science behind selectively breeding for a certain human population.

  3. This is really interesting. I agree with Matthew the ethics behind this is going to stir up some commotion, but I'm interested in how this will turn out in the future. Personally, I feel like this plan is not going to work out how they want it to!