Three-parent babies are currently being discussed by United States health officials. Although it sounds like science fiction, the technique could prevent numerous diseases. In vitro fertilization, using the DNA of three parents, could produce healthier children. However, the procedure is being criticized as a form of eugenics.
Medical ethicist Art Caplan said the procedure is simply a new way of “treating a disease.” Caplan said the technique would be considered ethical “as long as it proves to be safe.” Although the ethicist supports the procedure, he is concerned that it may eventually lead to a moral dilemma:
“… what if you… start to say, ‘While we’re at it, why don’t we make you taller, stronger, faster or smarter?'”
Susan Solomon, with the New York Stem Cell Foundation, helped develop the technique. She explains that the procedure does not involve genetic engineering or changing the mother’s DNA:
“It’s a way to allow these families to have healthy children… What we’re doing is… just allowing it to grow in an environment that isn’t sick.”
Despite the possibilities, Caplan argues that there is a fine line between creating three-parent babies and “making super babies” or “eugenics.” Although he is not specifically concerned about the proposed technique. He is concerned about future implications.
The procedure is said to create a three-parent baby, as the embryo would be developed using material from one man and two women. The genetic material from the egg of one woman would be removed and replaced with the genetic material of another. The new egg would then be introduced to sperm.
As reported by CNN, mitochondrial diseases and disorders are passed to children through the mother’s DNA. The technique would replace DNA with healthy material, preventing the spread of the disease. The procedure is expected to prevent severe illness, including muscular dystrophy.
The Food and Drug Administration formed an advisory panel to consider the controversial procedure. In a two-day session, the panel talked about trials, which would test the safety of the proposed technique. Although no conclusion was reached, the panel discussed controls, monitoring, and oversight of the trials.
Stem call biologist Evan Snyder was part of the panel. Although he is interested in the procedure he is concerned, as “there is just not enough preclinical data to suggest how to do that and how to do it safely.” USA Today reports that Snyder would prefer to see more results from animal trials before testing the procedure on humans.
Although the FDA did not reach any conclusions about three-parent-babies, the issue will likely be readdressed at a later date.
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