June 29, 2013 (TSR) – The world’s first “three-parent baby” could be born in Britain by 2015, if detailed proposals for regulating the procedure pass a public consultation and are approved by Parliament next year.
Parents at high risk of having children with severe disabilities such as muscular dystrophy will be offered the controversial new IVF treatment after it was given the green light by ministers today.
Britain’s top medical officer says the country may allow a controversial technique to create babies using DNA from three people. The move could help couples avoid passing on rare genetic diseases.
The new technique helps women with faulty mitochondria avoid passing on defects to their babies that can result in such diseases as muscular dystrophy, epilepsy, heart problems and other developmental disorders.
About 99.8 per cent of our DNA, including all the genes which govern our appearance and identity, is found in the nucleus of cells and is inherited evenly from both parents, but a small fraction resides in the power-supplying mitochondria and is only passed on from mother to child.
Defects in the mitochondria can cause a range of serious problems including muscular dystrophy and affect about one in every 6,500 children born in the UK – greater than the number affected by childhood cancer.
For a woman with faulty mitochondria, scientists take only the healthy genetic material from her egg or embryo. The so-called “mitochondrial replacement” therapy would avoid the risk of mothers transmitting such defects to their children, while still passing on the rest of their and their partner’s characteristics.
Doctors would remove the nucleus from a donor egg and replace it with the equivalent genetic material from the mother’s egg, either before or after fertilisation by the father.
The resulting egg could then be implanted and fertilised if necessary using standard IVF techniques, and is then transferred into the womb of the mother.
The child would inherit its identity from its mother and father but would gain their power-supplying mitochondria from the donor.
They then transfer that into a donor egg or embryo that still has its healthy mitochondria, but has had the rest of its key DNA removed.
Some groups oppose any artificial reproduction techniques. But if British lawmakers allow the procedure, the UK would become the first country in the world where the technique could be used to create babies.