Embryo engineering breakthrough triggers criticism

Stem cell researchers at Cornell have genetically engineered a human embryo, a pioneering development that was immediately condemned as a big step toward designing babies. The work itself was very simple: After putting a fluorescent protein gene into an embryo all the cells in the embryo glowed after it divided, giving researchers a chance to track the changes that had been engineered. The scientists emphasized that their work was done on a nonviable embryo that could never have grown into a baby.

The work, first covered by The Sunday Times, was criticized by the Center for Genetics and Society for crossing a boundary that had never been breached. Their concern is that once researchers understand how to engineer an embryo, people can design their babies with particular attributes for appearance, intelligence or athletic ability. But the scientists say the work shouldn't be misinterpreted.

"None of us wants to make designer babies," said Dr. Zev Rosenwaks, director of the Center for Reproductive Medicine and Infertility at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center.

- read the article in the New York Times