The clinic that vowed to deliver "designer babies" on demand is backing off that promise amid public outcry and criticism.
The Fertility Institutes in Los Angeles, which last month said it would soon help couples select a baby's gender and physical traits when undergoing a form of fertility treatment, has announced it will no longer proceed with the project.
The clinic, which has locations in Los Angeles, Mexico and New York, told the Wall Street Journal last month it had received a half-dozen requests for babies with specific physical characteristics.
Want a daughter with blue eyes and brown hair? No problem, insisted Dr. Jeffrey Steinberg, the clinic's director . Looking for a son with blond hair and green eyes? You got it.
But the clinic's Web site, has now posted its "Latest News":
“In response to feedback received related to our plans to introduce preimplantation genetic prediction of eye pigmentation, an internal, self-regulatory decision has been made to proceed no further with this project.
"Though well-intended, we remain sensitive to public perception and feel that any benefit the diagnostic studies may offer are far outweighed by the apparent negative societal impacts involved. For those patients with albinism or other ocular pigmentation disorders, we continue to offer preimplantation genetic diagnosis in general, but will not be investigating the pigmentation of any body structures."
Several phone calls to Steinberg's publicist were not returned.
Dr. Manny Alvarez, managing editor of health for FOXNews.com, said he is not surprised by the turn of events.
“They never had the technology to begin with,” Alvarez said. "The original idea had ethical implications. I think any fertility clinic who would purposely commercialize to choose the color of a baby’s skin or eyes or hair is entering into bad medicine.”
In preimplantation genetic diagnosis — PGD — a 3-day-old embryo, which consists of about six cells, is tested in a lab to see if it carries a certain genetic disease. The embryos that are free of the disease are implanted into the mother’s womb. The technique was introduced in the 1990s to allow parents to avoid passing on deadly disorders to their children.
PGD is used for medical purposes to avert life-threatening diseases in children, but the science behind it has matured so that it could potentially create a designer baby.
In a recent United States survey of 999 people who sought genetic counseling, about 10 percent of respondents said they would want genetic testing for athletic ability, while another 10 percent voted for improved height.
“It’s not about curing anything,” Alvarez said. “It’s about creating expectations in patients that are completely unethical. I always saw this as a big stunt. They wanted more publicity and they certainly achieved that.”
“This is cosmetic medicine,” Steinberg told the Wall Street Journal last month. “Others are frightened by the criticism, but we have no problems with it.”
The Wall Street Journal contributed to this report.