Three-parent embryos becoming a reality

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The Government’s fertility watchdog has concluded that there are no scientific reasons to believe that the creation of IVF embryos from three people’s genetic contributions is unsafe.

An in-depth review of the literature has revealed that the transfer of mitochondria from one female’s egg to another is not unsafe and it should be considered for those women with genetic disorders who want their own children.

The findings are supportive of the call for Government to introduce relevant legislation quickly, hopefully during this year.

This is the third review of mitochondrial transfer by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) and none have found scientific reasons to uphold the current ban on mitochondrial transfer in the treatment of serious diseases.

The chair of the HFEA, Sally Cheshire, has stated that it is a complex science, but the aim is quite simple. It is to enable mothers not to transfer serious inherited conditions to their children.

Mitochondria carry their own genetic mutation and the transfer of a donated egg will bring small genetic changes to generations down the line as the DNA is passed along the maternal line. Some people believe this ‘germ-line’ genetic engineering could cause huge problems in the future where ‘designer’ babies will be requested.

MP Fiona Bruce stated that the international community is not in support of these techniques and the UK would be setting an extremely dangerous precedent if it adopts it. The country would be isolating itself from other countries.

Ms Bruce said that many MPS are very worried about the safety of the proposals, the idea that proper tests have not been carried out and the risk of opening a door for designer babies.

Lord Alton of Liverpool stated that the UK should wait until the issues related to the technique have been resolved before it makes a final decision on a subject with such huge consequences.

The technique has only been tested on laboratory animals thus far, but fertility specialists are of the opinion that the benefits outweigh the risks associated with the technique.

Most countries with legislation on fertility have prohibited this technique.

A fertility specialist at King’s College London and member of the HFEA panel, Professor Peter Baude, said that any new medical treatment’s introduction is never completely risk-free and the genetic adjustment of disease is a vital step that should be given due consideration.

Image Credit: Jerry Lai

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