Parents pursuing assisted fertilisation (IVF) may soon have detailed data about potential embryos, from physical traits to vulnerability to diabetes or heart disease, OneZero reports.
Since 2010, Stephen Hsu—theoretical physicist and psychology professor—has been training artificial intelligence to analyse complex DNA features.
After successfully predicting people’s height to within an inch, Hsu founded Genomic Predictions, a biotech start-up dedicated to detecting probabilities for disorders which arise from multiple genes interacting—like hypertension or cancer.
Hsu’s company also gives prospective parents an estimation of embryos’ cognitive ability—but only when the predicted IQ is 25 or more points below average and signals possible intellectual disability.
Medics doubt whether ordinary patients could understand the real-world difference between an 11 percent risk of diabetes, and an 18 percent one—and stress that intelligence’s inheritability is much-disputed.
Hsu says his company offers vital information about predisposition to diseases which could then help manage—and even improve—a child’s quality of life.
This scientific advance underpins deeper ethical concerns about what desirable characteristics are, and whether parents get to preclude or include them.