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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

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February 27th, 2014
10:52 AM ET

3-parent IVF sparks 'designer baby' fears

(CNN) – U.S. health officials are weighing whether to approve trials of a pioneering in vitro fertilization technique using DNA from three people in an attempt to prevent illnesses like muscular dystrophy and respiratory problems. The proposed treatment would allow a woman to have a baby without passing on diseases of the mitochondria, the "powerhouses" that drive cells.

The technique is the focus of a two-day panel debate being held by the FDA.

"To repair those diseases – which are awful, most kids who have mitochondrial diseases die – and really take a shot at transplanting a few genes to let that repair go through, that seems reasonable to me," said medical ethicist at the New York University Langone Medical Center Art Caplan.

Right now, the technology is only being tested in monkeys. But critics fear we're on a slippery slope to an era of designer babies, where parents can pick and choose their child's genetic features.

Parents who currently pursue IVF procedures can screen for cystic fibrosis, but are also able to screen for gender, which concerns Caplan.

"You have to worry that we are going to march down a road using genetics toward designing our descendants," said Caplan.

"We're a society that values success, we're not anti-perfection. If we're going to stop that, let's make a rule that says: 'Fixing diseases yes, cosmetic stuff no.' But I wouldn't hold this experiment hostage to that worry," said Caplan.

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