Weill Cornell Medicine researchers have developed a new, safe, and approximately 80% effective method for sex selection. However, the authors acknowledge that there are ethical concerns associated with sex selection. The findings were published in PLOS One.
Researchers used a novel sperm sex selection technique to separate sperm with female X chromosomes from sperm with male Y chromosomes in order to determine the baby’s gender.
There are numerous advantages and disadvantages associated with sexual orientation selection. For instance, researchers in a study published in PLUS ONE on March 23 list financial, emotional, and simplicity as potential advantages of sex selection for couples. And the selection of a baby’s gender is not limited to science. In 2016, the Hollywood couple Chriss Teagan and John Legend announced their daughter had received a sex book.
In addition to personal preference, researchers have identified health-related advantages of sex selection in preventing sex-related diseases. X-linked recessive inheritance is a mutation that predominantly affects males due to the fact that they only carry one X chromosome. According to the United States National Institute of Health (NIH), females with a single X-chromosome mutation are generally unaffected.
The American Medical Association (AMA) Journal of Ethics identifies sex discrimination as one of the issues with sex selection. In some Asian nations, such as China and India, boys are favored. According to the AMA Journal of Ethics, this is not necessarily the case in western nations such as the United States.
Currently, the most reliable method of sex selection is preimplantation genetic diagnosis. In vitro fertilization (IVF) is a fertility treatment in which the egg is fertilized outside of the body by sperm. According to the AMA Journal of Ethics, the operation is nearly 100 percent accurate but not risk-free.
For the Cornell project, researchers included 1,317 couples undergoing intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) along with 105 male sperm specimens enriched for the desired sex. Results indicate that 79.1% of the 59 couples wishing for a baby girl received a female embryo, resulting in 16 healthy pregnancies. For the 46 couples seeking a baby boy, 79.6% of the male embryos produced resulted in 13 boys.
In their conclusion, researchers from Cornell note that their sex selection method does increase the number of aneuploid embryos or embryos with an abnormal number of chromosomes. While the study is deemed safe and effective, its findings are contested by some. Professor of Genetics at the University of Kent in the United Kingdom, Darren Griffin, believes that the Cornell study does not demonstrate sex selection efficiency.
Griffin states that there is a problem with the management of expectations. “Does the procedure justify the benefits for the four out of five couples who will get what they want in comparison to the added disappointment for the one out of five who will not?”
While sex selection is not prohibited by U.S. law, it is currently illegal in the U.K. unless a serious medical event occurs. 57% of the British public is opposed to sex selection, according to a report by the Progress Educational Trust (PET) of the United Kingdom.
Dr. Channa Jayaasena, head of andrology at Imperial College London, is concerned that as science advances, sex selection may become more prevalent. She believes the Cornell project is no more ethical than similar projects in the past.
The authors clearly describe the understandable ethical concerns of embryo selection and abortion of pregnancies based on (typically female) sex, and Jayaasena concludes that the accomplishment is insignificant in comparison to the ethical issues raised by the research.
“However, they propose sperm selection as an ‘ethical’ alternative to embryo selection, which I find incredible given that sperm selection is merely another method of selecting embryos to manipulate the sex of offspring, with negative societal consequences.”