U.K. Backs Three-Person IVF

The United Kingdom is drawing up draft guidelines for mitochondrial transfer procedures to prevent mothers passing on diseases to their children.  

By | July 1, 2013

WIKIMEDIA, VOICEBOKSThe United Kingdom has moved a step closer to becoming the first country to approve a new type of in vitro fertilization that creates babies with DNA from three parents. By transferring the nuclear DNA from the sperm and egg of prospective parents into an enucleated egg donated by a person with healthy mitochondria, the procedures could prevent mothers from passing mitochondrial diseases onto their children.

After a public consultation revealed broad support for the technique, the UK’s Department of Health last week (June 27) announced that draft regulation for fertility clinics wishing to perform the procedure will be ready by this fall. Parliament will then vote on the guidelines at some point next year.

Opponents of the plans are concerned that the move sets the UK on a slippery slope toward designer babies and other forms of genetic modification of humans. But while acknowledging the existence of “sensitive issues,” Dame Sally Davis, England’s chief medical officer, said she was “personally very comfortable” about pushing on with procedures that prevent disease by replacing mitochondria. “It’s only right that we look to introduce this life-saving treatment as soon as we can,” said Davis as she announced the plans.  

Mitochondria, the tiny energy generators inside cells, contain their own little bit of DNA, which is separate to the genetic material held in the nucleus. Mutations in mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) cause various disorders affecting energy-hungry organs, and these mitochondrial diseases are passed from mother to child because an embryo’s mtDNA comes from the egg rather than the sperm. One in every 6,500 people is born with a mitochondrial disease.

Mitochondrial transfer procedures safely prevent disease inheritance in animals, but have not yet been tested in humans. If the UK Parliament approves the guidelines, that could start to happen in 2014. “It will of course be a brave decision for the first families . . . to decide to go ahead once the regulations are approved by parliament, but more often than not, progress requires some element of bravery,” Robin Lovell-Badge, a geneticist at the National Institute for Medical Research in London, told The Guardian.

“This will give women who carry these diseased genes more reproductive choice and the opportunity to have children free of mitochondrial disease,” Doug Turnbull, leader of University of Newcastle team that is pioneering the procedure, told The Guardian.

(Hat tip to BBC News)

Add a Comment

Avatar of: You



Sign In with your LabX Media Group Passport to leave a comment

Not a member? Register Now!

LabX Media Group Passport Logo


Avatar of: PD


Posts: 18

July 5, 2013

There is good research and then there is bad research.  This is an example of the latter.  IVF is clearly a technique that ends more human life that it begins.  IVF throws out imperfect embyros created in the petri dish and also favors selective reduction (abortion) of unwanted embryos growing in the womb.  Now, IVF researchers want to create 3 donor babies all in the name of preventing disease in the finished product - the baby. 

It's funny how immoral practices generate more immorality.  Let's encourage our scientists to not use immoral means to treat disease.

Avatar of: Urk


Posts: 1

July 12, 2013

pd, how about you educate yourself on the subject...dna is being used from three people however there are not three babies being created to make one...there is one sperm, one full egg and another egg with the nucleus removed. humans have 23 PAIRS of chromosomes, one set from the egg, one set from the sperm...an enucleated egg will not conceive a baby if introduced to sperm therefore if you want to put a number on it, you are starting with one and a half babies. personally after having researched mtDNA, written reports on it and studied it in a lab during my science degree, i think this is a marvellous breakthrough! go science!

Popular Now

  1. A Newly Identified Species Represents Its Own Eukaryotic Lineage
  2. Man Receives First In Vivo Gene-Editing Therapy
  3. Telomere Length and Childhood Stress Don’t Always Correlate
  4. Optogenetic Therapies Move Closer to Clinical Use