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> This will lead to a massive rise in availability of human eggs for scientific research, accelerating many fields.

It will also mean a massive rise in the availability of human eggs for turning into embryos, which in turn will mean the ability to be much more selective about which embryos to to implant during IVF.

Currently egg harvesting is such an arduous process that embryos can only realistically be selected for viability and a handful of generally fatal diseases. When you are choosing 1 out of 7-10 embryos, you can't be all that picky. But between having access to hundreds of eggs, sperm obviously not being an issue, the ever decreasing cost of genomic sequencing, and the ever increasing knowledge of how specific genes relate to traits, parents undergoing IFV could start to apply many selection criteria. That wouldn't be genetic engineering in the classic sense, nothing would be available that wasn't in one of the parent's DNA, but it would get a lot of the way there.

Edit: If I was going to be beaten to the punch by anyone on this subject, I'm happy it was gwern.




And one day soon children conceived the 'natural' way will be at a disadvantage. Reminds me of Gattaca...


Parents' primary responsibility is to ensure that the environment in which their kids grow up, the food they eat etc promote healthy development. For many practical purposes, the kids' protein-building machinery including the nucleic acids, can be treated the same way as the environment, the food etc - another critical input to a developing human life.

In this view, it is scarcely surprising that parents would want to give their kids viable genetic information just like they want to give their kids a good home, healthy food and challenging education.

This desire to ensure the good of the kids is a strong force pushing humanity forward and I see no reason to object.

Unequal access to shelter, food, education or genetic techniques is a different matter. But our failure to ensure universal access to the spoils of a new invention does not imply that there is something wrong with the invention. The real problem is more like the lack of compassion for other folks...

So let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater.


it's happening already


No it's not. I don't know of any non-naturally born people who have an advantage. Currently, people born via IVF are more likely to be born prematurely and with increased risks of mental and physical problems.

We may be there soon, but we're definitely not there yet.


> Currently, people born via IVF are more likely to be born prematurely and with increased risks of mental and physical problems.

Cite? The research I found on this indicated that IVF children were exactly average, and IVF with use of sperm donors actually had considerably lower risk of birth defects.


The research is still uncertain, and it may also depend on whether or not you do ICSI. When you do IVF though you need notarized signatures from both partners next to a dozen or so possible categories of birth defects where the child may have an increased risk, e.g.:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29164811

If you're curious you can probably just stop by your local teaching hospital and ask for a copy of the 50+ page contract with all the informed consent details.


If things like congenital heart defects are a real risk (especially a doubling), it should show up very easily in mortality and other hard endpoints. As it is, that just sounds like another anomaly from observational data. (Reading that one in particular, none of the studies use any kind of strong controlling for parental factors, to mention the most obvious problem with trying to infer causation of harm in IVF.)

> If you're curious you can probably just stop by your local teaching hospital and ask for a copy of the 50+ page contract with all the informed consent details.

What a contract says is of little scientific value, unless one is studying tort law and the finer details of butt-covering.


As for the mortality issue, the oldest IVF baby is currently something like 38. And given that it didn’t become common until even later, we’re not going to have that data for several decades.

> What a contract says is of little scientific value, unless one is studying tort law and the finer details of butt-covering.

They have actual statistics though if not references to the primary sources, so that was more the reasoning.


> As for the mortality issue, the oldest IVF baby is currently something like 38.

My point is that a congenital heart defect is something that should strike early, especially in childhood (and that's one of the usual ways to find out about it, kids dropping dead for no good reason, like after being lightly hit in a football game). If a doubling of defects can be detected, so too should a doubling of heart-related mortality. There's on the order of a million IVF kids annually in the USA alone; it's not possible for that to have gone unnoticed. So either their risk is the same as their non-IVF peers and such defects are just common among older mothers, or the defects are not actually serious (pace studies showing that things like cancers or spinal anomalies are common among healthy people, or, more IVF related, that many embryos discarded for chromosomal abnormalities turn out, when implanted, to work perfectly fine because the abnormal cells die or the embryo otherwise recovers during development).


> it's not possible for that to have gone unnoticed

Keep in mind that 93% of heart defects are detectable via an echocardiogram around week 24 of pregnancy. So I would imagine that in most cases where the heart defect is fixable then it's repaired, or else if it's not fixable but also not serious then the kid is just prevented from doing sports. Or else if it's serious and not fixable then pregnancy is terminated.

So I would expect the actual mortality to be substantially less than 2x. And given that heart-related mortality in children is extremely rare, I suspect it would be quite tricky to detect. Especially when you need to account for confounding issues like maternal age during pregnancy, ICSI use, etc.

Given that there are around 5,000 CHD-related deaths in children per year, and around 1.5% of babies are IVF births, we're talking at most 150 deaths per year instead of 75, probably less due to the reasons mentioned above. And once you start trying to take into account imperfect data confounding variables, it's hard to say whether having definitive proof one way or the other is even within the realm of science at that point.


I can second this from a non-statistical point of view. IVF is pretty common in my relative circle and I do not find the kids to have any sort of mental/physical issues


Embryo selection is an advantage for IVF children




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