Doctors in the U.K. have been given the first-ever license to create “three-parent babies,” with the controversial IVF treatment taking place as early as later this year. [1]

The license was granted by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) to a team who pioneered the mitochondrial pronuclear transfer technique at the University of Newcastle.

The development takes humanity closer to the creation of “designer babies,” but the doctors at the Newcastle Fertility Centre say they only plan to use the technology “to help families affected by these devastating diseases.”

Mary Herbert, a professor of Reproductive Biology at the Centre, says:

“Many years of research have led to the development of pronuclear transfer as a treatment to reduce the risk of mothers transmitting disease to their children. It’s a great testament to the regulatory system here in the U.K. that research innovation can be applied in treatment.” [2]

Read: “Steer Clear of Creating GMO Babies,” Scientists and Ethicists Say

The IVF treatment involves halting the fertilization process to remove faulty mitochondria that can cause fatal heart problems, liver failure, brain disorders, blindness, and muscular dystrophy. These are known as mitochondrial diseases, and they are incurable conditions that get passed down the maternal line, affecting about one in 6,500 children worldwide.

Source: Daily Mail

It’s known as “three-parent IVF” because the babies are born from genetically modified embryos, and they would have DNA from a mother, a father, and a female donor.

In 2016, Britain’s parliament voted to change the law to allow three-parent IVF if and when it was ready for licensing. However, the HFEA still had to approve each clinic and each patient on an individual basis before the treatment could occur.

Now that the Newcastle Fertility Centre has received a license, the HFEA must approve each applicant for treatment. [2]

Professor Sir Doug Turnbull, who has led the team at Newcastle in developing the new IVF therapy, says:

“This will allow women with mitochondria DNA mutations the opportunity for more reproductive choice. Mitochondria diseases can be devastating for families affected and this is a momentous day for patients who have tirelessly campaigned for this decision.” [1]

Last fall, a team of U.S. doctors announced that the world’s first three-parent baby had been born in Mexico on 6 April 2016 to a Jordanian couple. The team held off on the announcement for five months to make sure the child didn’t have the same condition that killed his siblings, Leigh syndrome – a fatal disorder that affects the central nervous system.

Source: Science Magazine

Sources:

[1] The Sun

[2] Scientific American

Daily Mail

Science Magazine


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Post written byJulie Fidler:
Julie Fidler is a freelance writer, legal blogger, and the author of Adventures in Holy Matrimony: For Better or the Absolute Worst. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two ridiculously spoiled cats. She occasionally pontificates on her blog.