daredevil

The Science of Daredevil: 5 Scientific Explanations for Daredevil’s Abilities

 

daredevil-netflix-series-previews

While he can no longer see, the radioactive exposure heightens his remaining senses beyond normal human ability and gives him a type of radar or sonar which acts as his vision. There is another theory that the toxic waste didn’t enhance his senses at all, and his abilities are just a natural response to the loss of one of his 5 key senses.  

 

 

The Man Without Fear:

daredevil

Daredevil is a comic book superhero created by Stan Lee and Bill Everett for Marvel comics.  He first appeared in 1964.  Living in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of New York City, Matt Murdock is blinded by a radioactive substance that falls from an oncoming vehicle. While he can no longer see, the radioactive exposure heightens his remaining senses beyond normal human ability and gives him a type of radar or sonar which acts as his vision. There is another theory that the toxic waste didn’t enhance his senses at all, and his abilities are just a natural response to the loss of one of his 5 key senses.  He fights crime in the streets, seemingly fearless in the face of his visual limits. He’s a master martial artist, trained from his youth, and is a genius lawyer to boot. Here are 5 very real scientific explanations for Daredevil’s not so super-human powers.

 

1. Blindness Hacks your Visual Cortex:

Daredevil’s powers and abilities include a radar sense, similar to echolocation and sonar, and sensitive touch, hearing, and balance. You are born with a Visual Cortex – the part of your brain that processes all of the visual information you take in.  If you are born blind, or become blind, your brain’s visual cortex will actually rewire itself to make use of the visual processing center in different ways – otherwise known as cross-modal neuroplasticity.  This means that the brain uses the other senses more efficiently, increasing their performance. This rewiring can also lead to acquiring synesthesia – where input from one sense triggers another sense automatically – like hearing a color, or tasting a sound.

 

2. Radar Sense:  

Daredevil’s “radar” has been very inconsistent over the years within the comic, with many different renditions and qualities being noted. Sometimes he sees extreme details and other times he sees basic outlines and shapes. Sometimes its linked to his sense of hearing like a form of echolocation.  In Daredevil #167 it is described like that of a bat.  It says “he emits probing, high frequency waves.” Waves which break against any solid object and breaking send back signals only audible to Daredevil.  From these signals, his brain forms silhouette images of everything around him.  In this manner he “sees” in every direction.

 

3. Human Echolocation is Real:

echolocation-in-action

Human echolocation has been known and formally studied since at least the 1950s.  It is the ability of humans to detect objects in their environment by sensing echoes from those objects. By actively creating sounds – for example, by tapping their canes, lightly stomping their foot, snapping their fingers, or making clicking noises with their mouths – people trained to orient by echolocation can interpret the sound waves reflected by nearby objects, accurately identifying their location and size. This ability is used by some blind people for acoustic wayfinding, or navigating within their environment using auditory rather than visual cues. It is similar in principle to active sonar and to animal echolocation, which is employed by bats, dolphins and toothed whales to find prey.

 

4. Our Perception of Reality:

cross-modal-plasticity

We might assume how we perceive the world through our eyes and ears and other senses is the only objective reality, but that’s not really true.  Your senses actually limit your perception of reality.  Our eyes can detect only a tiny sliver of the electromagnetic spectrum.  Our ears have a very finite set of frequencies it can pick up, and our sense of smell is extremely limited compared to other animals, like dogs, for example.  So perhaps by removing one sense, the other senses get center stage in our brains, enabling them to acquire more input, and ultimately sense reality differently than others.

5. Realities of Radioactive Substances:

Screen Shot 2015-05-06 at 12.12.04 AM

 

Screen Shot 2015-05-06 at 12.11.24 AM

Matt Murdock lost his vision because of an accident involving a radioactive substance.  A radioactive substance is unstable and produces dangerous kinds of radiation. It is unstable because the strong nuclear force that holds the nucleus of the atom together is not balanced with the electric force that wants to push it apart.  Radioactive substances actual effect on humans are much more dire than that proposed in the Marvel Universe.  The degree of damage to the human body depends on the amount of radiation absorbed by the body, the type of radiation, the route of exposure and the length of time a person is exposed.  Exposure to very large doses of radiation may cause death within a few days or months. Exposure to lower doses of radiation may lead to an increased risk of cancer, cataracts or decreased fertility.  Regardless of the effects of radiation and the magical effects of radioactive substances in fictional stories, the brain is a master at adapting to sensory changes.  Being blind doesn’t mean you are truly unable to “see” your surroundings.

daredevil

The Science of Daredevil: 5 Scientific Explanations for Daredevil’s Abilities

While he can no longer see, the radioactive exposure heightens his remaining senses beyond normal human ability and gives him a type of radar or sonar which acts as his vision. There is another theory that the toxic waste didn’t enhance his senses at all, and his abilities are just a natural response to the loss of one of his 5 key senses.  

The Man Without Fear:

Daredevil is a comic book superhero created by Stan Lee and Bill Everett for Marvel comics.  He first appeared in 1964.  Living in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of New York City, Matt Murdock is blinded by a radioactive substance that falls from an oncoming vehicle. While he can no longer see, the radioactive exposure heightens his remaining senses beyond normal human ability and gives him a type of radar or sonar which acts as his vision. There is another theory that the toxic waste didn’t enhance his senses at all, and his abilities are just a natural response to the loss of one of his 5 key senses.  He fights crime in the streets, seemingly fearless in the face of his visual limits. He’s a master martial artist, trained from his youth, and is a genius lawyer to boot. Here are 5 very real scientific explanations for Daredevil’s not so super-human powers.

1. Blindness Hacks your Visual Cortex:

Daredevil’s powers and abilities include a radar sense, similar to echolocation and sonar, and sensitive touch, hearing, and balance. You are born with a Visual Cortex – the part of your brain that processes all of the visual information you take in.  If you are born blind, or become blind, your brain’s visual cortex will actually rewire itself to make use of the visual processing center in different ways – otherwise known as cross-modal neuroplasticity.  This means that the brain uses the other senses more efficiently, increasing their performance. This rewiring can also lead to acquiring synesthesia – where input from one sense triggers another sense automatically – like hearing a color, or tasting a sound.

2. Radar Sense:  

Daredevil’s “radar” has been very inconsistent over the years within the comic, with many different renditions and qualities being noted. Sometimes he sees extreme details and other times he sees basic outlines and shapes. Sometimes its linked to his sense of hearing like a form of echolocation.  In Daredevil #167 it is described like that of a bat.  It says “he emits probing, high frequency waves.” Waves which break against any solid object and breaking send back signals only audible to Daredevil.  From these signals, his brain forms silhouette images of everything around him.  In this manner he “sees” in every direction.

3. Human Echolocation is Real:

Human echolocation has been known and formally studied since at least the 1950s.  It is the ability of humans to detect objects in their environment by sensing echoes from those objects. By actively creating sounds – for example, by tapping their canes, lightly stomping their foot, snapping their fingers, or making clicking noises with their mouths – people trained to orient by echolocation can interpret the sound waves reflected by nearby objects, accurately identifying their location and size. This ability is used by some blind people for acoustic wayfinding, or navigating within their environment using auditory rather than visual cues. It is similar in principle to active sonar and to animal echolocation, which is employed by bats, dolphins and toothed whales to find prey.

4. Our Perception of Reality:

We might assume how we perceive the world through our eyes and ears and other senses is the only objective reality, but that’s not really true.  Your senses actually limit your perception of reality.  Our eyes can detect only a tiny sliver of the electromagnetic spectrum.  Our ears have a very finite set of frequencies it can pick up, and our sense of smell is extremely limited compared to other animals, like dogs, for example.  So perhaps by removing one sense, the other senses get center stage in our brains, enabling them to acquire more input, and ultimately sense reality differently than others.

5. Realities of Radioactive Substances:

Matt Murdock lost his vision because of an accident involving a radioactive substance.  A radioactive substance is unstable and produces dangerous kinds of radiation. It is unstable because the strong nuclear force that holds the nucleus of the atom together is not balanced with the electric force that wants to push it apart.  Radioactive substances actual effect on humans are much more dire than that proposed in the Marvel Universe.  The degree of damage to the human body depends on the amount of radiation absorbed by the body, the type of radiation, the route of exposure and the length of time a person is exposed.  Exposure to very large doses of radiation may cause death within a few days or months. Exposure to lower doses of radiation may lead to an increased risk of cancer, cataracts or decreased fertility.  Regardless of the effects of radiation and the magical effects of radioactive substances in fictional stories, the brain is a master at adapting to sensory changes.  Being blind doesn’t mean you are truly unable to “see” your surroundings.

daredevil

The Science of Daredevil: 5 Scientific Explanations for Daredevil’s Abilities

While he can no longer see, the radioactive exposure heightens his remaining senses beyond normal human ability and gives him a type of radar or sonar which acts as his vision. There is another theory that the toxic waste didn’t enhance his senses at all, and his abilities are just a natural response to the loss of one of his 5 key senses.  

The Man Without Fear:

Daredevil is a comic book superhero created by Stan Lee and Bill Everett for Marvel comics.  He first appeared in 1964.  Living in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of New York City, Matt Murdock is blinded by a radioactive substance that falls from an oncoming vehicle. While he can no longer see, the radioactive exposure heightens his remaining senses beyond normal human ability and gives him a type of radar or sonar which acts as his vision. There is another theory that the toxic waste didn’t enhance his senses at all, and his abilities are just a natural response to the loss of one of his 5 key senses.  He fights crime in the streets, seemingly fearless in the face of his visual limits. He’s a master martial artist, trained from his youth, and is a genius lawyer to boot. Here are 5 very real scientific explanations for Daredevil’s not so super-human powers.

1. Blindness Hacks your Visual Cortex:

Daredevil’s powers and abilities include a radar sense, similar to echolocation and sonar, and sensitive touch, hearing, and balance. You are born with a Visual Cortex – the part of your brain that processes all of the visual information you take in.  If you are born blind, or become blind, your brain’s visual cortex will actually rewire itself to make use of the visual processing center in different ways – otherwise known as cross-modal neuroplasticity.  This means that the brain uses the other senses more efficiently, increasing their performance. This rewiring can also lead to acquiring synesthesia – where input from one sense triggers another sense automatically – like hearing a color, or tasting a sound.

2. Radar Sense:  

Daredevil’s “radar” has been very inconsistent over the years within the comic, with many different renditions and qualities being noted. Sometimes he sees extreme details and other times he sees basic outlines and shapes. Sometimes its linked to his sense of hearing like a form of echolocation.  In Daredevil #167 it is described like that of a bat.  It says “he emits probing, high frequency waves.” Waves which break against any solid object and breaking send back signals only audible to Daredevil.  From these signals, his brain forms silhouette images of everything around him.  In this manner he “sees” in every direction.

3. Human Echolocation is Real:

Human echolocation has been known and formally studied since at least the 1950s.  It is the ability of humans to detect objects in their environment by sensing echoes from those objects. By actively creating sounds – for example, by tapping their canes, lightly stomping their foot, snapping their fingers, or making clicking noises with their mouths – people trained to orient by echolocation can interpret the sound waves reflected by nearby objects, accurately identifying their location and size. This ability is used by some blind people for acoustic wayfinding, or navigating within their environment using auditory rather than visual cues. It is similar in principle to active sonar and to animal echolocation, which is employed by bats, dolphins and toothed whales to find prey.

4. Our Perception of Reality:

We might assume how we perceive the world through our eyes and ears and other senses is the only objective reality, but that’s not really true.  Your senses actually limit your perception of reality.  Our eyes can detect only a tiny sliver of the electromagnetic spectrum.  Our ears have a very finite set of frequencies it can pick up, and our sense of smell is extremely limited compared to other animals, like dogs, for example.  So perhaps by removing one sense, the other senses get center stage in our brains, enabling them to acquire more input, and ultimately sense reality differently than others.

5. Realities of Radioactive Substances:

Matt Murdock lost his vision because of an accident involving a radioactive substance.  A radioactive substance is unstable and produces dangerous kinds of radiation. It is unstable because the strong nuclear force that holds the nucleus of the atom together is not balanced with the electric force that wants to push it apart.  Radioactive substances actual effect on humans are much more dire than that proposed in the Marvel Universe.  The degree of damage to the human body depends on the amount of radiation absorbed by the body, the type of radiation, the route of exposure and the length of time a person is exposed.  Exposure to very large doses of radiation may cause death within a few days or months. Exposure to lower doses of radiation may lead to an increased risk of cancer, cataracts or decreased fertility.  Regardless of the effects of radiation and the magical effects of radioactive substances in fictional stories, the brain is a master at adapting to sensory changes.  Being blind doesn’t mean you are truly unable to “see” your surroundings.

daredevil

The Science of Daredevil: 5 Scientific Explanations for Daredevil’s Abilities

While he can no longer see, the radioactive exposure heightens his remaining senses beyond normal human ability and gives him a type of radar or sonar which acts as his vision. There is another theory that the toxic waste didn’t enhance his senses at all, and his abilities are just a natural response to the loss of one of his 5 key senses.  

The Man Without Fear:

Daredevil is a comic book superhero created by Stan Lee and Bill Everett for Marvel comics.  He first appeared in 1964.  Living in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of New York City, Matt Murdock is blinded by a radioactive substance that falls from an oncoming vehicle. While he can no longer see, the radioactive exposure heightens his remaining senses beyond normal human ability and gives him a type of radar or sonar which acts as his vision. There is another theory that the toxic waste didn’t enhance his senses at all, and his abilities are just a natural response to the loss of one of his 5 key senses.  He fights crime in the streets, seemingly fearless in the face of his visual limits. He’s a master martial artist, trained from his youth, and is a genius lawyer to boot. Here are 5 very real scientific explanations for Daredevil’s not so super-human powers.

1. Blindness Hacks your Visual Cortex:

Daredevil’s powers and abilities include a radar sense, similar to echolocation and sonar, and sensitive touch, hearing, and balance. You are born with a Visual Cortex – the part of your brain that processes all of the visual information you take in.  If you are born blind, or become blind, your brain’s visual cortex will actually rewire itself to make use of the visual processing center in different ways – otherwise known as cross-modal neuroplasticity.  This means that the brain uses the other senses more efficiently, increasing their performance. This rewiring can also lead to acquiring synesthesia – where input from one sense triggers another sense automatically – like hearing a color, or tasting a sound.

2. Radar Sense:  

Daredevil’s “radar” has been very inconsistent over the years within the comic, with many different renditions and qualities being noted. Sometimes he sees extreme details and other times he sees basic outlines and shapes. Sometimes its linked to his sense of hearing like a form of echolocation.  In Daredevil #167 it is described like that of a bat.  It says “he emits probing, high frequency waves.” Waves which break against any solid object and breaking send back signals only audible to Daredevil.  From these signals, his brain forms silhouette images of everything around him.  In this manner he “sees” in every direction.

3. Human Echolocation is Real:

Human echolocation has been known and formally studied since at least the 1950s.  It is the ability of humans to detect objects in their environment by sensing echoes from those objects. By actively creating sounds – for example, by tapping their canes, lightly stomping their foot, snapping their fingers, or making clicking noises with their mouths – people trained to orient by echolocation can interpret the sound waves reflected by nearby objects, accurately identifying their location and size. This ability is used by some blind people for acoustic wayfinding, or navigating within their environment using auditory rather than visual cues. It is similar in principle to active sonar and to animal echolocation, which is employed by bats, dolphins and toothed whales to find prey.

4. Our Perception of Reality:

We might assume how we perceive the world through our eyes and ears and other senses is the only objective reality, but that’s not really true.  Your senses actually limit your perception of reality.  Our eyes can detect only a tiny sliver of the electromagnetic spectrum.  Our ears have a very finite set of frequencies it can pick up, and our sense of smell is extremely limited compared to other animals, like dogs, for example.  So perhaps by removing one sense, the other senses get center stage in our brains, enabling them to acquire more input, and ultimately sense reality differently than others.

5. Realities of Radioactive Substances:

Matt Murdock lost his vision because of an accident involving a radioactive substance.  A radioactive substance is unstable and produces dangerous kinds of radiation. It is unstable because the strong nuclear force that holds the nucleus of the atom together is not balanced with the electric force that wants to push it apart.  Radioactive substances actual effect on humans are much more dire than that proposed in the Marvel Universe.  The degree of damage to the human body depends on the amount of radiation absorbed by the body, the type of radiation, the route of exposure and the length of time a person is exposed.  Exposure to very large doses of radiation may cause death within a few days or months. Exposure to lower doses of radiation may lead to an increased risk of cancer, cataracts or decreased fertility.  Regardless of the effects of radiation and the magical effects of radioactive substances in fictional stories, the brain is a master at adapting to sensory changes.  Being blind doesn’t mean you are truly unable to “see” your surroundings.

designer-baby thumbnail

We Need to Discuss Designer Babies: Is this the next step in human evolution?

 

designer-baby


 

Designed by Science

Given the opportunity, would you choose the qualities of your unborn baby? Their gender? What if you knew your family had a history of a certain illness or cancer, what if you could choose a child that did not carry traits for that illness, and you could basically guarantee they would lead a long healthy life? That doesn’t sound too bad. However, what if that choice were given to only affluent or privileged families, leading to genetically perfect people who have another advantage over the poor or those without access to this technology? Lets dive into the possible future of genetic selectivity and perfection. It’s happening already.

54ca9797be313_-_designerbaby_500x375_1209-lg


In Vitro Fertilization

In Vitro Fertilization, or IVF, helps women with fertility problems conceive a child. It mainly consists of an egg from a female and sperm from a male fertilizing outside of a human body in a lab setting. Once fertilization takes place, the embryo is then implanted back into the female’s uterus in order to grow into a baby.

IVF is a complex and expensive procedure; only about 5% of couples with infertility seek it out. However, since its introduction in the U.S. in 1981, IVF and other similar techniques have resulted in more than 200,000 babies.


The Modern Rich and Famous Pregnancy

John Legend and his wife Chrissy Teigen underwent In Vitro Fertilization to be able to have a child. Controversially, Teigen and Legend took this technology a step further and were able to determine the gender of the embryo, among other choices, and to select a female for their future child.

Preimplantation Genetic Screening made this possible. It is a process by which one or more cells from an in vitro fertilization embryo are removed, and tested for chromosomal normalcy, and a genetic diagnosis includes testing for a specific genetic condition.

Screen Shot 2016-03-04 at 5.03.45 PM


How A She Becomes a He

It has been known for many years that the gender of a pregnancy is determined by the sex chromosome carried by the sperm. Sperm bearing an “X” chromosome, when united with the “X” from the female (females only produce “X”) will result in an “XX” pregnancy that produces a female. If a sperm bearing a “Y” chromosome (men have both “X” and “Y” bearing sperm) unites with the “X” chromosome from the female, an “XY” pregnancy will result that gives rise to a male offspring. Humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes for a total of 46.


Sticker Shock

It may seem completely fine, or even exciting to think of the options available to us in a controlled environment where choices aren’t left up to fate. Especially when illnesses and genetic diseases can put financial strain and heartache on someone’s life from the start. However, those choices are not an option for those who do not have the funds for the very costly IVF. The average cost of IVF is anywhere from $15,000 to $25,000, not including medication, and that only provides one round. Typical successful cases require three rounds. Plenty of women undergoing IVF are simply hoping for a healthy pregnancy, not to determine the characteristics of their unborn child. For those who wish to choose a gender or diagnose other features, the costs are even more staggering. Therefore, this kind of genetic selection is something that many families cannot afford.


Dare to Dream

Taking this technology to a mainstream level, what if more and more people will be able to afford this procedure, say in 20, 30 years. What would a world be like where many of those who live among us are considered genetically “perfect”?

There is a film that has already explored this plausible world, Gattaca. This film was made in 1997, and it features exactly this scenario. The haves and the have nots are split between those who are genetically perfect, compared to regularly conceived humans. Perfect humans are given privileges, get better jobs, lead better lives. You can imagine the moral implications of a world like that. We may get to experience it first hand in a few decades.


Public Health Benefits

There are benefits of this future though. The less people who have genetic disorders, the less medical costs those people would incur. There may be whole economic shifts because of a large population of effortlessly healthy people. Public Health issues are also important to consider. Where is the line between the highly personal nature of individual genetic data, and the wide ranging benefits of that data as it pertains to public health?

While some people argue that the uniquely personal nature of genetic information requires an individual rights approach that limits public health use, others view genetic data as just another type of population data that can be collected, aggregated, and used along with other surveillance and environmental data to produce social utility. Still others focus on the significant power of genetic advancements to improve individual lives and, from a distributive justice perspective, emphasize public health’s responsibility to not only ensure access to genetic information throughout the population but more importantly to provide genetic services for the disadvantaged. Public health must address these and other competing ethical claims when developing public health genetics policies.

So where do you stand? Is this the future of human evolution or are we at the brink of greater divide between the have and the have nots?

designer-baby thumbnail

We Need to Discuss Designer Babies: Is this the next step in human evolution?

 

designer-baby


Designed by Science

Given the opportunity, would you choose the qualities of your unborn baby? Their gender? What if you knew your family had a history of a certain illness or cancer, what if you could choose a child that did not carry traits for that illness, and you could basically guarantee they would lead a long healthy life? That doesn’t sound too bad. However, what if that choice were given to only affluent or privileged families, leading to genetically perfect people who have another advantage over the poor or those without access to this technology? Lets dive into the possible future of genetic selectivity and perfection. It’s happening already.

54ca9797be313_-_designerbaby_500x375_1209-lg


In Vitro Fertilization

In Vitro Fertilization, or IVF, helps women with fertility problems conceive a child. It mainly consists of an egg from a female and sperm from a male fertilizing outside of a human body in a lab setting. Once fertilization takes place, the embryo is then implanted back into the female’s uterus in order to grow into a baby.

IVF is a complex and expensive procedure; only about 5% of couples with infertility seek it out. However, since its introduction in the U.S. in 1981, IVF and other similar techniques have resulted in more than 200,000 babies.


The Modern Rich and Famous Pregnancy

John Legend and his wife Chrissy Teigen underwent In Vitro Fertilization to be able to have a child. Controversially, Teigen and Legend took this technology a step further and were able to determine the gender of the embryo, among other choices, and to select a female for their future child.

Preimplantation Genetic Screening made this possible. It is a process by which one or more cells from an in vitro fertilization embryo are removed, and tested for chromosomal normalcy, and a genetic diagnosis includes testing for a specific genetic condition.

Screen Shot 2016-03-04 at 5.03.45 PM


How A She Becomes a He

It has been known for many years that the gender of a pregnancy is determined by the sex chromosome carried by the sperm. Sperm bearing an “X” chromosome, when united with the “X” from the female (females only produce “X”) will result in an “XX” pregnancy that produces a female. If a sperm bearing a “Y” chromosome (men have both “X” and “Y” bearing sperm) unites with the “X” chromosome from the female, an “XY” pregnancy will result that gives rise to a male offspring. Humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes for a total of 46.


Sticker Shock

It may seem completely fine, or even exciting to think of the options available to us in a controlled environment where choices aren’t left up to fate. Especially when illnesses and genetic diseases can put financial strain and heartache on someone’s life from the start. However, those choices are not an option for those who do not have the funds for the very costly IVF. The average cost of IVF is anywhere from $15,000 to $25,000, not including medication, and that only provides one round. Typical successful cases require three rounds. Plenty of women undergoing IVF are simply hoping for a healthy pregnancy, not to determine the characteristics of their unborn child. For those who wish to choose a gender or diagnose other features, the costs are even more staggering. Therefore, this kind of genetic selection is something that many families cannot afford.


Dare to Dream

Taking this technology to a mainstream level, what if more and more people will be able to afford this procedure, say in 20, 30 years. What would a world be like where many of those who live among us are considered genetically “perfect”?

There is a film that has already explored this plausible world, Gattaca. This film was made in 1997, and it features exactly this scenario. The haves and the have nots are split between those who are genetically perfect, compared to regularly conceived humans. Perfect humans are given privileges, get better jobs, lead better lives. You can imagine the moral implications of a world like that. We may get to experience it first hand in a few decades.


Public Health Benefits

There are benefits of this future though. The less people who have genetic disorders, the less medical costs those people would incur. There may be whole economic shifts because of a large population of effortlessly healthy people. Public Health issues are also important to consider. Where is the line between the highly personal nature of individual genetic data, and the wide ranging benefits of that data as it pertains to public health?

While some people argue that the uniquely personal nature of genetic information requires an individual rights approach that limits public health use, others view genetic data as just another type of population data that can be collected, aggregated, and used along with other surveillance and environmental data to produce social utility. Still others focus on the significant power of genetic advancements to improve individual lives and, from a distributive justice perspective, emphasize public health’s responsibility to not only ensure access to genetic information throughout the population but more importantly to provide genetic services for the disadvantaged. Public health must address these and other competing ethical claims when developing public health genetics policies.

So where do you stand? Is this the future of human evolution or are we at the brink of greater divide between the have and the have nots?

designer-baby thumbnail

We Need to Discuss Designer Babies: Is this the next step in human evolution?

 

designer-baby


Designed by Science

Given the opportunity, would you choose the qualities of your unborn baby? Their gender? What if you knew your family had a history of a certain illness or cancer, what if you could choose a child that did not carry traits for that illness, and you could basically guarantee they would lead a long healthy life? That doesn’t sound too bad. However, what if that choice were given to only affluent or privileged families, leading to genetically perfect people who have another advantage over the poor or those without access to this technology? Lets dive into the possible future of genetic selectivity and perfection. It’s happening already.

54ca9797be313_-_designerbaby_500x375_1209-lg


In Vitro Fertilization

In Vitro Fertilization, or IVF, helps women with fertility problems conceive a child. It mainly consists of an egg from a female and sperm from a male fertilizing outside of a human body in a lab setting. Once fertilization takes place, the embryo is then implanted back into the female’s uterus in order to grow into a baby.

IVF is a complex and expensive procedure; only about 5% of couples with infertility seek it out. However, since its introduction in the U.S. in 1981, IVF and other similar techniques have resulted in more than 200,000 babies.


The Modern Rich and Famous Pregnancy

John Legend and his wife Chrissy Teigen underwent In Vitro Fertilization to be able to have a child. Controversially, Teigen and Legend took this technology a step further and were able to determine the gender of the embryo, among other choices, and to select a female for their future child.

Preimplantation Genetic Screening made this possible. It is a process by which one or more cells from an in vitro fertilization embryo are removed, and tested for chromosomal normalcy, and a genetic diagnosis includes testing for a specific genetic condition.

Screen Shot 2016-03-04 at 5.03.45 PM


How A She Becomes a He

It has been known for many years that the gender of a pregnancy is determined by the sex chromosome carried by the sperm. Sperm bearing an “X” chromosome, when united with the “X” from the female (females only produce “X”) will result in an “XX” pregnancy that produces a female. If a sperm bearing a “Y” chromosome (men have both “X” and “Y” bearing sperm) unites with the “X” chromosome from the female, an “XY” pregnancy will result that gives rise to a male offspring. Humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes for a total of 46.


Sticker Shock

It may seem completely fine, or even exciting to think of the options available to us in a controlled environment where choices aren’t left up to fate. Especially when illnesses and genetic diseases can put financial strain and heartache on someone’s life from the start. However, those choices are not an option for those who do not have the funds for the very costly IVF. The average cost of IVF is anywhere from $15,000 to $25,000, not including medication, and that only provides one round. Typical successful cases require three rounds. Plenty of women undergoing IVF are simply hoping for a healthy pregnancy, not to determine the characteristics of their unborn child. For those who wish to choose a gender or diagnose other features, the costs are even more staggering. Therefore, this kind of genetic selection is something that many families cannot afford.


Dare to Dream

Taking this technology to a mainstream level, what if more and more people will be able to afford this procedure, say in 20, 30 years. What would a world be like where many of those who live among us are considered genetically “perfect”?

There is a film that has already explored this plausible world, Gattaca. This film was made in 1997, and it features exactly this scenario. The haves and the have nots are split between those who are genetically perfect, compared to regularly conceived humans. Perfect humans are given privileges, get better jobs, lead better lives. You can imagine the moral implications of a world like that. We may get to experience it first hand in a few decades.


Public Health Benefits

There are benefits of this future though. The less people who have genetic disorders, the less medical costs those people would incur. There may be whole economic shifts because of a large population of effortlessly healthy people. Public Health issues are also important to consider. Where is the line between the highly personal nature of individual genetic data, and the wide ranging benefits of that data as it pertains to public health?

While some people argue that the uniquely personal nature of genetic information requires an individual rights approach that limits public health use, others view genetic data as just another type of population data that can be collected, aggregated, and used along with other surveillance and environmental data to produce social utility. Still others focus on the significant power of genetic advancements to improve individual lives and, from a distributive justice perspective, emphasize public health’s responsibility to not only ensure access to genetic information throughout the population but more importantly to provide genetic services for the disadvantaged. Public health must address these and other competing ethical claims when developing public health genetics policies.

So where do you stand? Is this the future of human evolution or are we at the brink of greater divide between the have and the have nots?