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Genetic IQ tests to begin in ChinaTHURSDAY, FEBRUARY 13, 2014 13:51 PM

Genetic IQ tests to begin in China While some parents might wonder if their child will have a certain eye color, how tall the baby will grow up to be or if the newborn will have any life-threatening illnesses, other parents have jumped right to considering how high their baby can score on IQ tests. In order to meet this small but growing demand, a Chinese company called BGI has been developing a way to predict intelligence levels while the child is still in the embryonic stage.

Mapping the intelligence genomes
BGI has a number of researchers working in its cognitive genomics department seeking answers to questions such as why children can have higher IQ scores than their parents. BGI owns 178 sequencing machines and produces approximately 25 percent of the world's genomic data. The researchers have genetic material from a number of volunteers. The participants in BGI's genomic project are mainly individuals who have a high aptitude in mathematics or physics, Ph.D holders, and people who have near-perfect SAT or GRE scores. By pouring all this data into their sequencing machines, the scientists hope to find the key to genius-level intelligence.

The BGI scientists' theory revolves around the mapping of genius' genomes. Once the scientists complete the map, they aim to identify which of the genes influence intelligence. Researchers have used similar methods to isolate the genes that cause black hair or right-handedness.

Controversy and consequences of BGI research
The ethical ramifications of BGI's research are significant. Parents could potentially fertilize multiple embryos and select one that has the greatest potential for intelligence. Some Westerners shudder at the thought, but some citizens in Asia don't find BGI's work unsettling at all. According to Bowen Zhao, the head of the BGI cognitive genomics department, many Chinese people welcome the research. If BGI's project goes on as planned, people will have a chance to break cultural barriers and become successful through education and intelligence. 

Government support of cognitive genomics in China
The Chinese government demonstrated interest in BGI's project by giving the company $1.5 billion to fund further research. The act comes as a surprise given the Chinese's previous hesitance to share information and the company's future plans for the project. BGI previously stated that it will make all its data available to the public. The company did something similar when a strain of E. coli hit Germany in 2011, sequencing the strain in three days and tweeting details and information about the bacteria throughout the process.


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