Scientists from Imperial College London have identified for the first time two clusters of genes linked to human intelligence.
Called M1 and M3, these so-called gene networks appear to influence cognitive function – which includes memory, attention, processing speed and reasoning.
Crucially, the scientists have discovered that these two networks – which each contain hundreds of genes – are likely to be under the control of master regulator switches. The researchers are now keen to identify these switches and explore whether it might be feasible to manipulate them.
These clusters of genes become obvious targets in which to focus the search for genetic variants that influence intelligence. Also, their regulatory regions might be useful as drug targets. Though getting regulatory approval for intelligence-boosting drugs would be hard.
I'm skeptical about the potential to have a big impact on human intelligence by modifying a small number of master regulator switches. Researchers chasing genetic causes of intelligence differences find plenty of evidence that each genetic variant that influences intelligence has only a small impact. As a result, thousands of locations in the genome have genetic variations that cause differences in intelligence. The vast majority of these thousands of locations have not yet been identified.
Since each location on the genome that influences intelligence has only small effect people chasing after all those locations have to use really large data sets of genetic testing and sequencing data. This has made the search for brain IQ genes a much lengthier process than some optimists had hoped 10 to 15 years ago.
On the bright side, the many orders of magnitude drop in DNA sequencing costs accelerated starting around 2008 and we have now reached a point where much larger scale sequencing of genomes has become possible. The search for IQ genes has sped up by orders of magnitude. We will know the vast majority of them in 10 years and some of them much sooner. By 2020 or perhaps 2022 it will be possible to choose between embryos using IVF to get much smarter children.
When embryo selection for intelligence first starts I expect affluent (or even highly motivated not so affluent) people will travel to whichever jurisdictions allow it. To get around inevitable regulatory delays by the US FDA and European equivalents we will probably see fertility clinics with embryo genetic testing popping up in legally lenient islands in the Caribbean, Hong Kong, Singapore, and other locales on the fringes of major powers.
The prospect of getting babies with 10+ IQ point boosts over the average outcome from old style sexual reproduction is going to be a very powerful lure. As the implications sink in genetic testing will start happening as part of mate selection. Also, the market will bid up the prices of sperm and egg donors with the most genetic potential.
|Share |||Randall Parker, 2015 December 26 05:22 PM|