Thursday, 5 February 2015

U.K. Moves Closer to 3-Parent Babies


By Peter Russell
WebMD Health News

Reviewed by Rob Hicks, MD

Feb. 4, 2015 -- The United Kingdom is on course to become the first country to approve the creation of babies using DNA from 3 people.

The new in vitro fertilization technique, developed at Newcastle University, uses genetic material from a “second mother” to repair faulty DNA.

Supporters have hailed the decision as a milestone for progressive medicine. Opponents have warned it could lead to so-called "designer babies."

Big Vote

The British Parliament's House of Commons voted 382 to 128 in favor of the new law, which will require approval by the House of Lords.

The technique makes embryos containing DNA from three people to help prevent rare genetic diseases -- otherwise known as mitochondrial diseases -- that are passed on from mother to child.

Mitochondria make energy that cells in your body need in order to work. They're sometimes referred to as the cell's “batteries.”

When babies are born with faulty mitochondria, they can get serious health problems, such as heart and liver disease and respiratory issues.

The technique involves transferring genetic material from the nucleus of an egg or embryo from a woman carrying a mitochondrial disease into an egg or embryo from a healthy donor that has had its nuclear DNA removed. This means the resulting embryo will have the affected mother's nuclear DNA but will not inherit the mitochondrial disease. This allows a woman carrying defective mitochondria to have healthy children.

The resulting embryo has the nuclear DNA of the mother and father, but the mitochondrial DNA of the donor -- hence the label “three-parent IVF” treatment.

Disease Prevention

Opening the Parliament debate, health minister Jane Ellison said: "The techniques provided for by these regulations offer the only hope for some women who carry the disease to have healthy, genetically related children who will not suffer from the devastating and often fatal consequences of serious mitochondrial disease."

Among those who opposed the measures, Sir Edward Leigh said he was against changing the law on ethical grounds: "Given the nature of the human condition, these appalling diseases, sadly, will occur, but where do we stop? What further modifications will we make?"

There were cheers in the Commons when the result of the vote was announced.

source : U.K. Moves Closer to 3-Parent Babies

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