Biomedical scientist Paul Knoepfler believes that designer babies are no longer science fiction. In fact, editing human embryos is a highly likely future scenario.

More like this: Three parent baby born from using a controversial new IVF treatment that triggers ethical debate

Just last week, scientists in Ukraine announced the birth of a child concieved in vitro using mitochondrial donation, the “three parent” IVF technique. Born on January 5, the baby girl is believed to be the second child conceived using mitochondrial donation, following the birth of another child in Mexico last year. So far, the UK is the only country to have officially approved the clinical use of mitochondrial donation, but this does not prevent the procedure being conducted in countries with more relaxed fertility clinic regulation. It seems increasingly likely that the first “designer baby” will be born in an unregulated fertility clinic. 

Knoepfler estimates that within fifteen years, scientists could use the gene editing technology CRISPR to make certain “upgrades” to human embryos — from altering physical appearances to eliminating the risk of auto-immune diseases. In this TEDxVienna talk from last year, Knoepfler considers the forthcoming “designer baby revolution” and its very personal, and unforeseeable, consequences.

More on these topics