UK experts approve ‘three-parent babies’
LONDON: British scientists on Wednesday approved the use of socalled “three-parent baby” fertility treatments, paving the way for the country to become the first in the world to officially introduce the procedures.
An independent panel of experts tasked with reviewing the safety of mitochondrial gene therapy said the practice should be “cautiously adopted” to prevent certain genetic diseases from being passed on to future generations.
British MPs voted in February to allow creation of in-vitro fertilisation babies with DNA from three people.
However, the country’s fertility regulator, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), said it would wait for Wednesday’s report before green-lighting use of the treatments in clinics.
The technique would allow women who carry disease-causing mutations in their mitochondrial genes to give birth to genetically-related children free of mitochondrial disease.
But opponents have questioned its ethics and say it opens the way to “designer babies”.
The treatment involves the embryo receiving the usual “nuclear” DNA from the mother and father, as well as a small amount of healthy mitochondrial DNA from a female donor.
The panel suggested its clinical use “in specific circumstances where inheritance of the disease is likely to cause death or serious disease and where there are no acceptable alternatives”.
Following the report, the HFEA is expected to authorise the procedure for clinical use when it meets on Dec 15.
The first women could receive the treatment as early as March or April, with a pioneering research centre in Newcastle expected to be the first where it would take place.
Health charities swiftly welcomed the move.
Robert Meadowcroft of Muscular Dystrophy UK described it as “a major step” towards effective treatment for the 2,500 women in Britain affected. – AFP