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Preventing Babies Inheriting Deadly Genetic Diseases

Although the techniques are still at the research stage in laboratories in Britain and the United States, experts say that now legal hurdles have been overcome,the fertility regulator will now decide how to license the procedure to prevent babies inheriting deadly genetic diseases. Britain’s first three-parent baby could be born as early as 2016.

What is Mitochondria?

Mitochondria act as tiny energy-generating batteries inside cells, and around 1 in 6,000 babies around the world are born with serious mitochondrial disorders. Mitochondria are the tiny compartments inside nearly every cell of the body that convert food into useable energy. Genetic defects in the mitochondria mean the body has insufficient energy to keep the heart beating or the brain functioning. The structures are passed down only from the mother and have their own DNA, although it does not alter traits including appearance or personality.

Three Parent IVF

The treatment, called mitochondrial transfer, as reported by the media, is known as “three-parent” in vitro fertilisation (IVF) because the babies, born from genetically modified embryos, would have DNA from a mother, a father and from a female donor. The technique, developed in Newcastle, uses a modified version of IVF to combine the healthy mitochondria of a donor woman with DNA of the two parents.

This process results in babies with 0.1% of their DNA from the second woman and is a permanent change that would echo down through the generations.

Critics, including Churches, fear this will effectively lead to “designer babies”.

More information on: IVF / ICSI