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A new study from an international team of geneticists is suggesting we are probably further away than many realize from being able to effectively genetically select for complex polygenic traits such as IQ or height. • Identifying monogenic disorders in embryos may be a simple and reasonably reliable technique, but our growing awareness of how different genetic variants relate to human traits led Shai Carmi, from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and his team to wonder how accurate our current ability to identify those traits in embryos actually is. • The study focused on two particular traits: height and intelligence. Both traits were selected due to the large volume of pre-existing research identifying influential genetic variants associated with them. • Across a number of computer simulations, the researchers investigated various hypothetical embryos modeled on the genomic profiles of several real-life couples. Based on the gene variants present in the hypothetical embryos the researchers predicted which embryos would result in higher IQ and adult height outcomes. • The conclusions suggest our current genomic knowledge related to height and intelligence can only result in incredibly minor advantages in relation to embryo selection. For example, when selecting an embryo for genes that confer height, an increase of no more than 3 cm (1.2 in) could be achieved, and even then that was not guaranteed. • "There is much about these traits that is unpredictable," says Carmi. "If someone selected an embryo that was predicted to have an IQ that was two points higher than the average, this is no guarantee it would actually result in that increase. There is a lot of variability that is not accounted for in the known gene variants." • “It has long been feared that genetic information might be used to select embryos based on desire for characteristics such as increased height or intelligence,” says Liz Ormondroyd, a genetic researcher from the University of Oxford. “This computer simulation study shows that, for these complex characteristics, ‘designer babies’ remain in the realm of science fiction.” [credit: Rich Haridy, New Atlas]🌐

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