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A Digital Kid

Genepeeks, a New York-based startup, is preparing to launch a virtual service this December that will simulate hypothetical children based on sperm and ova pairings to allow prospective parents to check for potential diseases such as rare recessive pediatric conditions, BBC News reports.

Lee Silver, company co-founder and molecular biology professor at Princeton University, says that the system uses DNA sequences from the two prospective parents to create virtual sperm and eggs and then simulates the reproductive process to generate the genome of a possible child.

"Then we can look at that hypothetical genome and — with all the tools of modern genetics — determine the risk that the genome will result in a child with disease," he told BBC News "We're looking directly for disease and not carrier status."

The system simulates 10,000 possible children per union and scans for about 6,000 single-gene recessive diseases. It will initially be used to screen donated sperm in sperm banks providing prospective mothers with "a filtered catalogue of donors based on their own underlying genetic profile" that takes out donors with whom there is a high risk of having a child with a rare inherited disease, Genepeeks co-founder Anne Morriss tells BBC News.