Are you comfortable with a baby having three parents?

One of the processes that forms part of IVF Photo: PA

Remember the headlines about babies with three parents back in January?

Scientists at Newcastle University were planning to use IVF techniques to create babies who received genetic material from three "parents".

Well they still are, and today the government watchdog that regulates this kind of research is giving you the chance to have your say about whether they should be allowed to go ahead.

IVF treatment is usually between two adults Credit: Channel 4

So why do they want to do it? Well, bear with me.

Almost all of your genes came from your mother and father. But a very small fraction came only from your mother. They're called mitochondrial genes because they're contained in the mitochondria - the bodies in your cells that produce energy.

The point is, you inherit those only from your mother, and like other genes, they can go wrong and lead to debilitating and very serious diseases.

Adam with mother Marie and his sister Credit: ITV News

A couple of months ago I met a young boy called Adam who had one of these diseases. His muscles were gradually getting weaker and weaker.

The Newcastle researchers want to prevent diseases like Adam's. How? By taking mitochondrial genes not from the mother but from a donor, and then using those genes in IVF instead of the mother's "bad" genes.

We want to make a difference to the lives of our patients who live with mitochondrial diseases.

These can seriously affect the quality of life of both patients and their families and it often affects several generations.

If we can stop that happening it will be a tremendous help for many hundreds of people who suffer with these diseases.

– Professor Mary Herbert, Professor of Reproductive Biology, Newcastle University

The resulting baby would still have the vast majority of its genes from its mother and father, but a few "good" mitochondrial genes would come from a donor - and because they are "normal" they would prevent the diseases developing.

So what is wrong with that? Well, those mitochondrial genes would be passed on to that baby's children, and ever since IVF started in Britain that has been illegal. So there would have to be a change in the law for this to happen.

The government's watchdog, the Human Fertilisation Embryology Authority (HFEA), has today opened up a debate where you can have your say on what you think of the proposed change.

Professor Lisa jardine, the chairwoman of the HFEA, says:

We find ourselves in unchartered territory, balancing the desire to help families have healthy children with the possible impact on the children themselves and wider society.

– Professor Lisa jardine, chairwoman, HFEA