Gene Deep Beauty:
Breast augmentation, liposuction, face-lifts and nose jobs have become so commonplace that the procedures have long ceased to create any questions or controversy. The old familiar adage claims, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” yet the perception of beauty is quickly being shifted to an unobtainable degree of perfection complementary of our celebrity obsessed society and the widespread art of airbrushing. No longer do “strong” characteristics such as the family hook nose or a cleft chin make a statement of originality rather have become a cosmetic eyesore to be radically corrected.
In Japan, the fastest rising surgery is that of “heightening” in which young girls have rods surgically implanted in their legs to forcibly lengthening the bone thereby increasing their height by several inches. Also popular in this culture is the request for eyelid reshaping to obtain a more “Western” look. In Brazil, buttock augmentation is popular. In the United States, more surgeries are being requested that seem to go beyond the typical cosmetic demand such as vaginal rejuvenation, forehead implants, lengthening or shortening of toes and navel reshaping.
It is of no wonder that the concept of beauty has trickled down to genes. Society has become increasingly cosmetic conscious and now views perfect human aesthetics as an obtainable commodity. Yet as various cosmetic procedures become increasingly accepted, the conventional concept of a beautiful appearance slowly narrows. Computer software can now demonstrate optimal facial features to the millimeter. Human disparities are subtlety being replaced with the aid of a surgical knife.
Society now has the opportunity to be aware of and possibly correct undesirable products of our genes. Carrier screening and prenatal testing is now commonplace and has become part of the routine OB/GYN experience. Physicians can now detect many abnormalities in the womb such as sickle cell, cystic fibrosis, Down Syndrome and Tay-Sachs. Although these are not curable diseases, scientists have made incredible human genome discoveries thus rendering the idea of in-utero genetic manipulation as a possibility in the near future.
Most parents typically opt for the option of knowing the sex of the baby, a benign request these days and one that is so common that ultrasounds are scheduled before deciding how to decorate the nursery. Inevitably the sex selection decision is now a viable option for many couples seeking to pay for a specific sexed baby. Popular clinics are in numerous countries including India, South Korea, Israel, Italy and the United States and patients typically travel great distances and spend thousands of dollars out of pocket to ensure that their offspring sex will be to their liking. In fact, many of these clinics even go so far as to offer full guarantee or return of funds if the desired sex is not obtained. This procedure has become so popular in many countries of the world that legislation has been constructed in response to the newly emerging technologies.
The Perils of Perfection
The primary goal of present day genetic testing is to increase the capacity to diagnose, treat and eliminate potential disorders. Yet as cutting edge cosmetic surgery eventually merges with genetic medical procedures, genetic manipulation and the drive to obtain ideal features could potentially be used to alter physical characteristics. Average won’t due: perfection has become the model. But if we continue down this prescribed path, soon we will be buying designer genes instead of designer jeans.