A team of scientists in the UK has been given the permission to create babies from three parents, CNN reports. UK’s Human Fertilization and Embryo Authority had already green-lit the technique in December 2016. And now they are allowing a clinic at Newcastle University to carry out the technique with the public.
The technique, known as mitochondrial donation, will allow babies to be made from two women and a man. In this “in vitro” method of fertilization, a faulty mitochondria inherited from the mother can be replaced by a healthy mitochondria belonging to another woman, so as to ensure that mitochondrial diseases are not passed along to the child. Mitochondria, a component within every cell of the human body, is responsible for providing energy to the cells. It contains 1 percent of the cell’s genetic material, the DNA. This mitochondrial DNA is inherited from one’s mother and can only be passed along from the mother through her eggs.
The go-ahead was announced by Sally Cheshire, chairman of the Human Fertilization and Embryo Authority, during their annual conference.
“I can confirm today that the HFEA has approved the first application by Newcastle Fertility at Life for the use of mitochondrial donation to treat patients.
“Patients will now be able to apply individually to the HFEA to undergo mitochondrial donation treatment at Newcastle, which will be life-changing for them, as they seek to avoid passing on serious genetic diseases to future generations.”
Mary Herbert, a professor of reproductive biology at the Newcastle Fertility Center, whose team was responsible for developing the technique, made a statement regarding the decision.
“Many years of research have led to the development of pronuclear transfer as a treatment to reduce the risk of mothers transmitting disease to their children. It’s a great testament to the regulatory system here in the UK that research innovation can be applied in treatment to help families affected by these devastating diseases.”
An estimated 1 in every 4,300 children is born with mitochondrial diseases every year. While another 1 in every 6,500 will at some point in their lives develop a serious mitochondrial disorder. These diseases are passed along from the mother to her children if she possesses a faulty mitochondrial DNA. There are a number of serious diseases associated with the passing of faulty mitochondrial DNA. These include diabetes, epilepsy, strokes, heart problems and muscle weaknesses among others. In extreme cases, these could even lead to death.
With the green lighting of this new technique, women who have faulty mitochondrial DNA now have the option of having children without the risk of having kids with serious health problems. This will also most likely make the UK the world’s first country where children are born of three parents.
Experts have hailed the decision of the Human Fertilization and Embryo Authority to green-light the procedure. Professor Adam Balen of the British Fertility Society has called the decision a “historic step toward eradicating genetic diseases.” Dr. Jeremy Farrar of the Wellcome Trust has hailed the regulatory processes that were involved throughout the research and development of the technique. He expressed his belief that the clinic will continue on with the same spirit.
“Now we must give the first patients and their doctors the time and space to discuss the next steps with the patience, sensitivity and scientific rigor that they have displayed throughout.”
Professor Allan Pacey of the University of Sheffield said that it was a great day for science and expressed his belief that this was the perfect example of what can be achieved when people work together.
“This is a tremendous example of what can happen if scientists, clinicians, parliamentarians, regulators and patient support groups all work together for a common aim.”
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