Newcastle University gets green light to create three parent babies

Mar 18, 2017, 01:01
Newcastle University gets green light to create three parent babies

In the 90s, instead the technique involved simply injecting donor mitochondria into a mother's egg, meaning fetuses could wind up with mitochondria from two sources.

Mitochondria act like batteries, supplying the cells of the growing babies with energy.

About 1 in 6,500 children are thought to develop a serious mitochondrial disorder, according to Newcastle's Wellcome Trust Centre for Mitochondrial Research, which has been a leading partner in the project.

While Britain has been at the forefront of scientific advances and ethical debate about pro-nuclear transfer techniques, it will not be the first country in the world to have children born using 3-parent IVF treatment.

Mitochondrial disease is passed down from the mother so the three parent technique uses a donor egg as well as the mother's egg and father's sperm.

Newcastle University asked for permission from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) to undertake the procedure, known as mitochondrial donation treatment, at the end of past year.

The world's first and so-far only known mitochondrial transfer baby was born in 2016 after US doctors working at a clinic in Mexico helped a Jordanian couple conceive using the treatment.

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Scientists have said this could be life-changing for around 150 people per year who are hoping to conceive. Dozens of women have, apparently, already expressed an interest in undergoing the procedure.

Scientists at the University of Newcastle have been pioneering the treatment working with the fertility clinic and a number of patients are understood to be lined up for treatments which are expected to start this Spring.

Newcastle Fertility Centre said that the development was a "momentous day" for patients trying to avoid the transmission of mitochondrial diseases.

When the United Kingdom gave the green light to the technique, the independent watchdog Human Genetics Alert claimed it was "the first step in a well mapped-out process leading to [genetically modified] babies, and a future of consumer eugenics". The law was changed in 2015 to allow it on a case-by-case basis with the permission of the HFEA. Since those genes reside in the mitochondria, the technique worked correctly, and the baby was born without any mitochondrial disease. A year ago the HFEA said it was making a cautious decision to accept applications.

As the procedure is not legal in the USA, it was carried out in Mexico.

"Instead it has approved a procedure that will alter the human genome".

"Whilst we are deeply sympathetic to the plight of people with mitochondrial diseases, the ends do not always justify the means".