Made to Order Babies: Pick the Right Egg Donor with Beauty, Brains or Health

by Himabindu Venkatakrishnan on  October 21, 2014 at 2:52 PM Genetics & Stem Cells News
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In this competitive world the most sought after traits to be born with include having a 'beautiful body combined with a brain of High IQ.' Hypothetically if this was possible and the parents were given a choice then they would possibly opt for these option for all their babies. But in this era of 'designer babies' this hypothesis was tested by a study in New York.
Made to Order Babies: Pick the Right Egg Donor with Beauty, Brains or Health
Made to Order Babies: Pick the Right Egg Donor with Beauty, Brains or Health

Egg or ovum donation from a woman over the last thirty years has become an acceptable way of treating infertility in woman who are not able to produce eggs on their own. Indications for egg donation include: hypergonadotropic hypogonadism, advanced reproductive age, diminished ovarian reserve, evidence of genetic defect(s), poor oocyte and/or embryo quality, or a history of multiple failed attempts to conceive with assisted reproductive technologies. However since its very inception egg donation has provoked a number of controversies compromising legal, ethical, and social considerations. Many have felt that egg donation could be used not merely for the treatment of infertility, but as a means to create 'made-to-order babies.'

In recent years the recipients of the eggs have become more selective and desire more control on the attributes of the donor selected to donate the egg for their future babies. It is but natural for the parents to desire that the donated egg baby has a strong resemblance to them and this would avoid the discomfort of disclosure later in life with the offspring, family, and friends.

The study conducted in New York City from 2008 to 2012 and looked at the recipient's preference for donors attributes who were participating in a private, academic egg donation program. This preference by the recipients for specific type of donated egg was studied among 438 would be mothers who were to receive the donated egg.

During the initial psychological counselling of the recipient, they were presented with the same set of standardized questions by a therapist. The matching criteria for egg donors included - Intelligence (high IQ or smart), health (donor medical background and/or mental stability), physical ability (athletic), appearance (similar appearance) ethnicity (similar gene pool).

The study demonstrates that the prospective mothers preferred health, intelligence and athleticism in their prospective donors and this choice increased significantly over the 5-year analysis. Egg recipients appear to choose donor qualities that would serve their offspring well, in addition to the recipient's desire for offspring with a similar genetic background and appearance.

The authors conclude that improved social awareness, acceptance and education of egg donation as a treatment of infertility will continue to enhance practical considerations and approaches toward donor recruitment and the donor-recipient matching process. The authors documented statistically significant increases and decreases in the different categories over the years, with more "practical traits" that would improve offspring's overall quality of life tending to increase compared to "self-reflective" traits. "As social acceptance of ovum donation has increased, and donor selection has become more sophisticated, couples are changing their preferences for what donor characteristics they value most for their future offspring," says Susan G. Kornstein, MD, Editor-in-Chief of Journal of Women's Health, Executive Director of the Virginia Commonwealth University Institute for Women's Health, Richmond, VA, and President of the Academy of Women's Health. The article is available free on the Journal of Women's Health website at until November 20, 2014.

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