UK may allow 3 parent babies

Britain could become the first country in the world to allow babies to be born with three genetic parents to help stamp out serious diseases.

Latest ITV News reports

New IVF technique 'a step towards designer babies '

Paul Tully from the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children said the "three parent" IVF technique is a "step" towards designer babies.

Mr Tully told ITV News: "It is a change that can be passed on to future generations, and we are manipulating the genes of a child.

Paul Tully from the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children.
Paul Tully from the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children. Credit: ITV News

"We're concerned that we are replacing what we know to be defective DNA in the embryos that we don't like with what we think is good DNA - but we can't be sure.

"Putting the money into this kind of research is denying funding to research which is needed and ongoing to help people with mitochondrial diseases and other diseases in other ways.

"We've seen the same thing before with stem cell research, we've seen it with IVF - promises that using embryos will lead to advances but come to nothing.

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Genetic Alliance UK welcomes new IVF technique

Genetic Alliance UK has welcomed the "three parent" IVF technique proposal.

The charity's director, Alastair Kent, said: "Many of these [mitochondrial] conditions are so severe that they are lethal in infancy, creating a lasting impact upon the child's family.

An embryo being frozen with the new vitrification process into a long term storage chamber.
An embryo being frozen with the new vitrification process into a long term storage chamber. Credit: Ben Birchall/PA Wire

"An added option for families at risk of having a child with such a condition is welcome".

Experts said the technique would likely be used in around a dozen IVF cases every year.

Campaign group: IVF technique 'ethically unsound'

The director of the Human Genetics Alert campaign group said the IVF technique used to create babies with three genetic parents is "unnecessary" and "ethically unsound".

A three-day-old human embryo.
A three-day-old human embryo. Credit: PA Wire

Dr David King also criticised the Government for failing to conduct a more comprehensive public consultation on the issue.

Dr King told Reuters, "They cross the ethical line that has been agreed by Governments around the world that we should not genetically alter human beings".

Read: UK may allow 3 parent babies

Plans for three parent babies 'unnecessary and unsafe'

Some groups say the proposals for three parent babies are causing worldwide concern:

These techniques are unnecessary and unsafe and were in fact rejected by the majority of consultation responses.

It is a disaster that the decision to cross the line that will eventually lead to a eugenic designer baby market should be taken on the basis of an utterly biased and inadequate consultation.

Such a decision of major historical significance requires a much more extensive public debate with a much clearer outcome.

We therefore call upon the Secretary of State for Health not to legalise the techniques until a major national debate has taken place and the outcome is much clearer.

– Josephine Quintavalle, from the group Comment on Reproductive Ethics

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Experts back ground-breaking 'three parent babies'

A recent public consultation found that 56% of those questioned were "very" or "fairly" positive about the treatments. Patient focus groups were said to be "extremely positive". Experts are also behind the procedures.

Scientists have developed ground-breaking new procedures which could stop these diseases being passed on, bringing hope to many families seeking to prevent their future children inheriting them.

It's only right that we look to introduce this life-saving treatment as soon as we can. What we're going to do now is start to develop the regulations, to consult on the regulations, and then to take them into Parliament.

– Professor Dame Sally Davies, Chief medical officer

New IVF technique could treat muscular dystrophy

The aim of this form of IVF is to stamp out serious diseases which can be passed from a mother to her children. Around one in 200 babies are born each year in the UK with a defect in the way cells are supplied with energy.

Embryos prepared for instant freezing
Embryos prepared for instant freezing Credit: Press Association

One in 6,500 babies can suffer potentially life-threatening diseases including a form of muscular dystrophy and conditions leading to hearing and vision loss, heart, lung and liver problems, and bowel disorders. An estimated 12,000 people in the UK live with the diseases.

Defective DNA replaced by a healthy version

  • If the new technique gets the go-ahead only a tiny amount of DNA in a cell will be changed
  • The part that determines individual characteristics such as facial features and eye colour, will remain intact
  • But the defective DNA will be replaced by a healthy version supplied by a female donor, making them the third genetic parent
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