In a world first, the U.K. parliament has approved plans to create three-parent babies. The BBC is reporting that members of parliament have approved the plans to allow the creation of babies using DNA from three parents, two women and one man. In a free vote, which means that members of parliament can vote according to their conscience rather than on party lines, the vote passed earlier this afternoon. The vote had 382 M.P.’s in favor and 128 against the technique that prevents deadly genetic diseases being passed from mother to child.
The U.K. is now set to become the first country to introduce laws to allow the creation of babies from three people. During the debate, ministers said the technique was “light at the end of a dark tunnel” for families. The controversial technique has drawn criticism on ethical grounds, and some experts claim that babies with three genetic parents may face health risks in later life.
The technique, which was developed in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, should help women like Sharon Bernardi, from Sunderland, who lost all seven of her children to mitochondrial disease. According to the Guardian, a small number of babies are born each year with faults in their mitochondrial DNA, which can cause diseases. Mitochondria are small structures that sit inside our cells and provide them with energy. They have their own set of 37 genes which are separate from the 20,000 or so genes that shape who we are.
Babies born with mitochondrial diseases tend to deteriorate as they get older, and the diseases are often fatal before adulthood. Babies often suffer from brain, muscle, heart, and liver diseases. By using DNA from three parents, the technique a modified version of IVF, to combine the DNA of the two parents with the healthy mitochondria of a donor woman.
It results in babies with 0.1 percent of their DNA from the second woman and is a permanent change that would be passed down through the generations.
The three-parent babies technique raises ethical concerns, because any unexpected problems caused by the procedure could affect people who are not yet born, and so cannot give their consent to the treatment. The Catholic Church has raised concerns about the concept of three-parent babies as one form of mitochondrial transfer, called pronuclear transfer, because a fertilized egg from the mother is destroyed in the process. Catholic ethicists have also complained that three-parent babies technique introduces a “rupture” between mother and father and “dilutes parenthood.”
After today’s parliamentary approval, it is believed that the first three-parent babies could be born as early as 2016.
What do Inquisitr readers think of three parent babies? Is this a useful and ethical medical technique, or the first step towards designer babies?