GenePeeks is planning to offer preconception genetic risk testing service for people using sperm donors to conceive to limit the risk of having a child with a genetic disease, but New Scientist notes that a patent the company received covers a broader list of traits, including non-medical ones.
"It covers any disease or any trait that has a genetic influence," Princeton University's Lee Silver, a co-founder of the company, tells New Scientist.
GenePeeks' service relies on the Matchright algorithm Silver developed, and that algorithm simulates thousands of embryos that could be produced between a woman and a particular sperm donor. Those potential embryos are then examined for mutations that could cause some 500 possible genetic diseases.
But, New Scientist reports that GenePeeks aims to expand beyond single-gene diseases and screen for more complex disorders such as schizophrenia and breast cancer, as well as offer its test to parents planning to conceive naturally. The patent also includes a list of non-medical traits like eye color and dimples, among others.
If selecting such traits becomes common, Marcy Darnovsky from the Center for Genetics and Society says it could "change people's experience of what it means to be a parent."
But just because something is included in a patent, doesn't mean it will be used, and Anne Morriss, a co-founder of the company, says the system will not be used for non-medical purposes, New Scientist adds.