Couples undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF) may be able to identify and select the embryos with the highest potential IQ in less than a decade, according to a Michigan State University (MSU) scientist interviewed by the Guardian.
Genomic Prediction, the company undertaking the research, currently offers a test in US clinics to screen out abnormally low-IQ embryos. “Accurate IQ predictors will be possible, if not the next five years, the next 10 years certainly,” said Stephen Hsu, a Genomic Prediction executive who is also MSU’s senior vice-president for research.
The company should be able to predict IQ within 10 points at that time, he added.
For close to three decades, future parents have had the option to test their embryos for diseases caused by mutations in single genes, including cystic fibrosis, and Down’s syndrome.
Selecting for traits like intelligence and height has proved much harder since they are affected by hundreds or thousands of DNA regions. Recent research, however, has given scientists the ability to calculate polygenic risk scores, which indicate a subject’s likelihood of having a certain trait.
While Hsu expects the practice to prove controversial in Western countries, he says there could be a large market for it in Asian countries like Singapore. “I think the overwhelming majority would say yes, absolutely, parents should be allowed to do that,” he said.