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For Smarts?

Though editing human embryos to boost intelligence isn't yet possible, three researchers write in an opinion piece at Stat News that there is already a way to gauge which embryo may be the smartest and a company to help prospective parents do that. But they argue there should be limits to such testing.

Researchers have already developed genetic prediction scores for intelligence, which could be applied to genetic profiles of embryos, write the Hastings Center's Erik Parens and Paul Appelbaum and Wendy Chung, both from Columbia University. They add the company Genomic Prediction is now offering predictive tests to parents-to-be to gauge their embryos' risk of developing diseases like diabetes, hypertension, or breast cancer, but also of having a very low IQ. The company tells them they do not test for high IQ, as it is unethical.

Parens, Appelbaum, and Chung agree it is unethical and argue that it would worsen the gaps between those who can afford testing and those who cannot. They call for regulation of the space to impose limits on what kind of testing can be done with embryos. "Stifling progress in eliminating genetic diseases is not our goal," they write. "But creating regulations to prevent embryo profiling from being abused might be one end that could inspire our elected representatives to reach across the aisle."