LOS ANGELES -- A local fertility clinic is now offering parents the option of selecting not only their baby's gender but physical traits as well, such as eye or hair color.
"Fertility Institutes" says it has already received "half a dozen" requests for the service, which will be available to couples undergoing IVF, or in vitro fertilization.
But it has already been using PGD for gender selection and claims it has a success rate in that area of greater than 99 percent.
PGD is already used at fertility clinics around the world for couples who have recurrent miscarriages, or who need to screen out embryos that have inherited the genes for life-threatening diseases.
The process involves fertilizing eggs in a lab. When the embryos are three days old, a single cell is removed and analyzed.
If the cell has an abnormal chromosome count, the embryo is discarded. Healthy embryos are then implanted in the mother's womb.
While PGD has existed since the 1990s, the technology has now quietly progressed to the point that it can be used to create "designer babies" for hopeful parents who want to select their children's physical traits.
The cost of a trait selection baby is $18,000. The procedure has an estimated 80-percent success rate.
Dr. Jeff Steinberg, a pioneer of IVF in the 1970s who now runs the Los Angeles office of Fertility Institutes explains that his clinic started out by trying to screen out albinism and in the process learned how to predict eye color.
Steinberg has said the majority of the patients who come to his clinic and its other offices in New York and Mexico are interested in PGD because of concerns about genetic illness, not gender or physical traits.
The first "designer baby" is expected to be born next year.