Published: Fri, March 24, 2017
Health | By Jay Jacobs

'Three-parent' babies: United Kingdom clinic gets OK for groundbreaking technique

'Three-parent' babies: United Kingdom clinic gets OK for groundbreaking technique

The Newcastle University has received the license from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) to create babies from the DNA of three people. This Mitochondrial DNA is inherited from one's mother and can only be passed along from the mother through her eggs.

"I can confirm today that the HFEA has approved the first application by Newcastle Fertility at Life for the use of mitochondrial donation to treat patients". The resulting child has a tiny amount of their DNA from the donor, but the procedure is legal and reviews say it is ethical and scientifically ready.

The fertility technique, which was developed by Newcastle scientists, allows doctors to replace an egg's defective mitochondrial DNA with healthy DNA from a female donor to prevent children suffering debilitating conditions such as muscular dystrophy.

Professor Doug Turnbull, head of Newcastle's Wellcome Centre for Mitochondrial Research, anticipates the university's clinic could help 25 couples every year.

If the treatment begins immediately and is successful, the UK's first three-parent baby could be born around Christmastime 2017. Mitochondria provide humans with energy and are present in nearly every cell within the body. If the mitochondria do not function properly, it can stop the babies developing normally.

"It's a great testament to the regulatory system here in the United Kingdom that research innovation can be applied in treatment".

According to the HFEA, if mitochondrial DNA - which is inherited via the mother - is faulty, she could pass on one of "a number of rare but very serious mitochondrial diseases" to her children.

Mitochondrial diseases cause symptoms ranging from poor vision to diabetes and muscle wasting, and health officials estimate around 125 babies are born with the mutations in Britain every year.

Britain previous year became the first country in the world to legally offer such a treatment after parliament approved legislation in December.

"Now we must give the first patients and their doctors the time and space to discuss the next steps with the patience, sensitivity and scientific rigor that they have displayed throughout."

Because mitochondria have their own DNA, the resulting embryo has DNA from three people, but only the biological parents' genes can influence the baby's physical appearance and personality.

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