Thematic Report

High-tech babies

by David Li / Mar 6, 2019


As a race, we are already propagating well beyond our prime childbearing years. Daljinder Kaur gave birth in 2016 at the age of 72, following successful in-vitro fertilisation (IVF). But that’s just the beginning. Having overcome the issue of infertility, scientists are now taking assisted reproductive technology (ART) to the next level, with innovation and upgrades allowing doctors to screen out genetic abnormalities, resulting in healthier babies. Next-gen treatments will be able to detect known genetic diseases and chromosomal disorders.

Tackling infertility
Research improvements and technological advances have boosted success rates by increasing the level of control and precision in human fertilisation. While high-tech babies will have undergone preimplantation genetic screening (PGS) to check for chromosomal abnormalities even before they are transferred to the womb, soon embryotic gene editing will also make disease eradication possible. Mothers with flawed genetic data can even receive donor mitochondria and thus give birth to a ‘three-parent baby’.

Significant growth
China’s IVF market is poised for significant growth as infertility rates are rising alongside shifting demographics, with many people delaying marriage and having children. Unlike other medical treatments, where the public healthcare system controls prices, ART services are high margin. Compared to the rest of the world, the industry is strictly regulated in China, which will benefit established firms with leading technology due to the high barriers to entry as well as first-mover advantage.

Next-gen reproduction
In our CLSA U Bluebook, ‘High-tech babies’, guest author Dr Chi Ling from the Chinese University of Hong Kong walks us through the history of ART before delving into the exciting techniques that will be available to potential parents. She then breaks down clinical outcomes and how scientists are working to achieve better success rates through tech and innovation. The final section focuses on regulations and ethical issues in China and the USA.