The fertility regulator in the UK has approved babies made by two women and one man, making the UK the very first country to allow three parent babies.
This huge and historic move is to prevent children from being born with serious and deadly genetic diseases. Diseases passed down from the mother can prove fatal to the child, even the mother herself is asymptomatic.
The technique combines the mother’s egg with the donor egg, which is then combined with the father’s sperm, with the hopes of significantly reducing the chances of these diseases being passed on.
The child does end up with a tiny amount of DNA from that donor egg, the procedure is legal, ethical and scientifically ready. This procedure is undoubtedly very welcome to families who have lost multiple children to fatal genetic diseases.
Sally Cheshire, chairwoman of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), had this to say: “It is a decision of historic importance. This is about cautious go ahead, not gung-ho go ahead, and there is a long way to go. I’m sure patients will be really pleased by what we’ve decided today.”
Every clinic and patient will have to be approved by the HFEA before any procedure can take place.
The first team expected to be given a license is the one at Newcastle-upon-Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Newcastle University, who are hoping to help 25 couples per year.
Prof Mary Herbert, from the Newcastle Fertility Centre, said: “It is enormously gratifying that our many years of research in this area can finally be applied to help families affected by these devastating diseases. Now that that we are moving forward towards clinical treatments, we will also need donors to donate eggs for use in treatment to prevent affected women transmitting disease to their children.”
Naturally, follow ups will be conducted on all the children born.
Robert Meadowcroft, from the charity Muscular Dystrophy UK, said: “This historic decision will open the door to the first licensed treatments being offered. We know of many women who have faced heartache and tragedy and the sorrow of stillbirths, while trying to start their own family, and this decision gives them new hope and choice for the first time.”
However, the decision is pretty controversial and not everyone is pleased with it, arguing that this is laying the groundwork for genetically modified designer babies.
Dr David King, from the campaign group Human Genetics Alert, is one of the critics who is using this argument: “This decision opens the door to the world of genetically-modified designer babies. Already, bioethicists have started to argue that allowing mitochondrial replacement means that there is no logical basis for resisting GM babies, which is exactly how slippery slopes work.”