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November 20, 2018

A repugnant new test could screen out IVF embryos with lesser intelligence

Babies could be chosen based on genetic indications of intelligence. Company also expects parents to chose babies of higher intelligence

A repugnant new test could screen out IVF embryos with lesser intelligence
Genetic tests have long made it possible to screen out embryos with conditions such as cystic fibrosis or Down’s syndrome. Now, a new way of testing an embryo’s genes could make it possible to discard them for not being intelligent enough.

Genomic Prediction, a company based in New Jersey, says it has developed genetic tests that can assess complex traits, such as the risk of some diseases and lower intelligence. The tests haven’t been used yet, but the firm began talks last month with several IVF clinics with a view to providing them to customers.

While such a test can’t predict IQ for each embryo, it can, apparently, indicate certain genetic outliers, allowing parents to avoid embryos with a high chance of an IQ 25 points below average. While the company says it will only offer screening based on intelligence for cases of “mental disability”, co-founder Stephen Hsu claims the technique could be used to identify embryos with a likelihood of having a high IQ. “I think people are going to demand that,” he said. “If we don’t do it, some other company will.”

Peter Visscher, a geneticist at the University of Queensland, Australia, says that the idea of using such tests to select embryos predicted to have high intelligence is “repugnant, but technologically feasible.”

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