Today, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, launches a public consultation, to discuss the ethics of using the DNA of three people to create one baby. The HFEA is the UK’s independent regulator overseeing the use of gametes and embryos in fertility treatment and research.
A public consultation has been launched to discuss the ethics of using three people to create one baby.
The technique could be used to prevent debilitating and fatal “mitochondrial” diseases, which are passed down only from mother to child.
However, the resulting baby would contain genetic information from three people – two parents and a donor woman.
Ministers could change the law to make the technique legal after the results of the consultation are known.
About one in 200 children are born with faulty mitochondria – the tiny power stations which provide energy to every cell in the body.
Most show few or no symptoms, but in the severest cases the cells of the body are starved of energy. It can lead to muscle weakness, blindness, heart failure and in some cases can be fatal.
Mitochondria are passed on from the mother’s egg to the child – the father does not pass on mitochondria through his sperm. The idea to present this is to add a healthy woman’s mitochondria into the mix.
Two main techniques have been shown to work in the laboratory, by using a donor embryo or a donor egg.
The consultation runs until 7 December and details can be found on the HFEA website.
My personal view is that we should not take another catastrophic step towards genetically modified babies. For me, the problem with this idea is not the concept that these children would have three genetic parents, but that the scientific process will, undoubtedly, lead to unintended genetic mutations, which will, in turn lead to more disability, illness and disease, not less.
If you are in any doubt of the dangers, consider the effects of generally modifying food and farm animals, the true impact of which is still revealing itself to us. How much more tragic and terrifying would it be, if such a cascade of unknown and unstoppable consequences was to be unleaded, deep within the structure of human DNA?
It might also by of interest that, despite today’s announcement, the HFEA has been releasing related information to the media for several months.
On 20 March 2013, BBC News reported:
The UK has moved closer to becoming the first country to allow the creation of babies from three people.
The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has advised the government that there is no evidence the advanced forms of IVF were unsafe.
The fertility regulator’s public consultation also showed “general support” for the idea as the benefits outweighed the risks.
A final decision on whether to press ahead rests with ministers.