herald

Friday 24 November 2017

The special baby who will have three parents

BABIES with three biological parents could be born within three years using an IVF technique that eradicates hereditary disease by using the undamaged DNA of a third party.

Researchers have secured nearly €8m to develop the ground-breaking treatment, which could prevent genetic conditions of the heart, muscle or brain being passed on to future generations.

The method is controversial because it involes transferring parents' DNA into a donor egg, meaning the resulting child inherits a fraction of their genetic coding from a third party.

The Wellcome Trust in the UK announced extra funds to expand research into the technique, which involves using genetic material from two women and a man to create a baby.

The proposed procedure involves removing the nucleus from an affected woman's egg, transferring it to the shell of an egg provided by a female donor who has healthy mitochondria, and then fertilising it with the sperm of the affected woman's partner.

The baby would have genetic characteristics chiefly from its mother and father plus some from the third parent, who provided the donor egg.

An alternative method involves fertilising the woman's egg with her partner's sperm before transfer into the donor egg.



Law

Announcing the development, Britain's Public Health Minister Anne Milton said: "Mitochondrial disease...can have a devastating impact on the people who inherit it.

"Scientists have developed a new procedure to stop these diseases being passed on. But such a procedure would not be allowed...under current law, so we are consulting the public as to whether we should change the law."

The Wellcome Trust, announced a £4.4m (¤5.2m) grant towards the £5.8m (¤6.9m) cost of building a new research centre at Newcastle University.

Doug Turnbull, Professor of neurology who will become the centre's director, said: "If this technology proves to be as safe as IVF and as effective as preliminary studies show, I think we could totally prevent transmission of these diseases."

The public consultation will start later this year.

The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children said: "These macabre experiments are both destructive and dangerous and therefore unethical. Scientists should abandon the spurious field of destructive embryo experimentation and instead promote the ethical alternative of adult stem-cell research, which is already providing cures and treatments for the same conditions."

hnews@herald.ie

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