The UK Green Lights the Conception of “Three-Parent Babies”

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Reported by Michal Ortner

Most of us are familiar with the old adage “it takes a village to raise a child,” but we probably never imagined it would take a village to create a child.

A unique health advancement called “three parent babies” has been approved by the United Kingdom—the first country to do so. Other countries are uncertain and have ethical concerns about the newfound science of “three parent babies.”

The process includes vitro fertilization (IVF), where genetic portions of a mother’s fertilized egg are transferred to a healthy donor’s fertilized egg. The donor’s nuclear DNA is then removed from the egg. The purpose is to create a healthy baby despite genetic flaws from the parents. “Two eggs are fertilized with sperm, creating an embryo from the intended parents and another from the donors. The pronuclei, which contain genetic information, are removed from both embryos but only the parents’ are kept. A healthy embryo is created by adding the parents’ pronuclei to the donor embryo, which is finally implanted into the womb,” explained the BBC news.

“Eggs from a mother with damaged mitochondria and a donor with healthy mitochondria are collected. The majority of the genetic material is removed from both eggs. The mother’s genetic material is inserted into the donor egg, which can be fertilized by sperm.”

By the end of the process, the baby will have DNA from three separate people — made up of the mother, father, and female donor’s DNA.

The research company responsible for the technique, The Wellcome Trust Centre for Mitochondrial Research, said, “Nuclear DNA is not altered, and so mitochondrial donation will not affect the child’s appearance, personality, or any other features that make a person unique.”

“[This] will be passed down for generations, [and]the implications of this simply cannot be predicted,” Fiona Bruce, parliament member, said. “But one thing is for sure, once this alteration has taken place, as someone has said, once the genie is out of the bottle, once these procedures that we’re asked to authorize today go ahead, there will be no going back for society.”

Despite opposition from religious groups and genetic experts, the UK House of Commons voted in favor of the IVF technique 382 to 128. The decision was sent to the House of Lords where it was discussed and approved with a 280 to 48 vote.

Marcy Darnovsky, director of the Centre for Genetics and Society, believes that it is a “historic mistake” and will “forever alter the human germline.”

“The techniques … are relatively crude and will not in and of themselves create so-called designer babies,” she said. “However, they will result in children with DNA from three different people in every cell of their bodies, which will impact a large range of traits in unknowable ways and introduce genetic changes that will be passed down to future generations.”
“Three parent babies” have been approved and conception of such babies will begin effective immediately. The new technique could be producing newborns as soon as the early months of 2016.

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