UK moves forward with legislation for three-parent babies

lab

The UK government has drafted new legislation regarding the creation of three-person babies using new IVF techniques. Mitochondrial replacement is a new technique designed to prevent mothers from passing on serious inherited diseases caused by flaws in their mitochondrial DNA. The draft of new regulation has been released for public opinion. The document can be reviewed online.

Helping women have healthy babies

“Allowing mitochondrial donation would give women who carry severe mitochondrial disease the opportunity to have children without passing on devastating genetic disorders. It wouls also keep the UK at the forefront of scientific development in this area. I want to encourage contributions to this consultation so that we have as many views as possible before introducing our final regulations,” stated Chief Medical Officer Prof. Dame Sally Davies.

Mitochondrial disorders not unusual; affect 1 in 200 babies

Serious health disorders can affect internal organs like the heart and liver, cause muscle instability and other problems, some fatal. During reproduction, mitochondrial DNA comes exclusively from the mother. Pioneering work from Doug Turnbull and Mary Herbert of Newcastle University in England, there is now and IVF technique, mitochondrial replacement, that allows mitochondrial DNA from a female donor to replace that of the mother. The diseases are not passed to the offspring. DNA from three people then contributes to the making of one baby.

Current laws don’t address this unique arrangement

While the technique is legal in the lab, it is not legal in a fertility clinic – not yet. In June 2013 the government backed the idea of the treatment. They have now followed up with legislation anticipating the ability to provide the service widely in 2015.

Potential for designer babies

Those opposed to the technique say it could lead to designer babies, children who are genetically engineered for optimal attributes. The technique is not the same as genetic modification however and would not, theoretically, be able to produce a baby with hand-picked characteristics.

Source: MedicalNewsToday, Department of Health Government UK


 
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