Doc­tor told to stop mar­ket­ing three-per­son baby tech­nique

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH & SCIENCE -

NEW YORK: US reg­u­la­tors on Fri­day warned a New York fer­til­ity doc­tor to stop mar­ket­ing an ex­per­i­men­tal pro­ce­dure that uses DNA from three peo­ple - a mother, a father and an egg donor - to avoid cer­tain ge­netic dis­eases. The doc­tor, John Zhang, used the tech­nique to help a Jor­da­nian cou­ple have a baby boy last year. Ac­cord­ing to the Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion, Zhang said his com­pa­nies wouldn't use the tech­nol­ogy in the US again with­out per­mis­sion, yet they con­tinue to pro­mote it.

The pro­ce­dure is not ap­proved in the US, and Congress has barred the FDA from even re­view­ing pro­pos­als to con­duct such ex­per­i­ments. A re­cep­tion­ist at Zhang's New Hope Fer­til­ity Clinic in New York said late Fri­day that no one was avail­able to com­ment. Zhang heads the clinic and a re­lated com­pany, Dar­win Life Inc. New Hope's web­site touts hav­ing achieved the "first live birth" us­ing this tech­nol­ogy, along with other ad­vanced fer­til­ity treat­ments it of­fers. The FDA's let­ter to Zhang cites sev­eral other mar­ket­ing claims, in­clud­ing a ref­er­ence to "the first proven treat­ment for cer­tain ge­netic disor­ders."

The birth of the boy was dis­closed last Septem­ber. The mother car­ries DNA that could have given her child Leigh syn­drome, a se­vere neu­ro­log­i­cal dis­or­der that usu­ally kills within a few years of birth. The ex­per­i­men­tal tech­nique in­volves re­mov­ing some of the mother's DNA from an egg, and leav­ing the dis­ease­caus­ing DNA be­hind. The healthy DNA gets slipped into a donor's egg, which is then fer­til­ized. As a re­sult, the baby in­her­its DNA from both par­ents and the egg donor - pro­duc­ing what's been called "three-par­ent ba­bies" though the DNA con­tri­bu­tion from the egg donor is very small.

Peo­ple carry DNA in two places, the nu­cleus of the cell and in struc­tures called mi­to­chon­dria, which lie out­side the nu­cleus. The tech­nique is de­signed to trans­fer only DNA of the nu­cleus to the donor egg. A med­i­cal jour­nal re­port on the case said the pro­ce­dure was done at the New York clinic and the em­bryo was taken to Mex­ico, where it was im­planted. The pro­ce­dure isn't il­le­gal in Mex­ico. Last year, a re­port from a panel of US gov­ern­ment ad­vis­ers said it is eth­i­cal to be­gin test­ing this ap­proach in preg­nancy as long as the first stud­ies fol­low strict safety steps.

The stud­ies must in­clude women at high risk of pass­ing on a se­vere dis­ease and, at first, im­plant only male em­bryos, so the al­ter­ations wouldn't pass to fu­ture gen­er­a­tions. The FDA had re­quested the re­port, though the law against such ex­per­i­ments re­mains in force. British reg­u­la­tors last year ap­proved "cau­tious use" of the tech­nique, and this year is­sued its first li­cense to use it. The child born last year through Zhang's clinic is not the first to in­herit DNA from three peo­ple. In the 1990s, some chil­dren were born af­ter re­searchers used a dif­fer­ent tech­nique. But fed­eral reg­u­la­tors in­ter­vened, and the field's in­ter­est now has passed to the new ap­proach. — AP

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