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UK may approve world's first three-parent baby

June 28, 2013 16:07 IST

Britain may become the first country in the world to allow a controversial IVF technique that creates babies using DNA from three people, to keep parents from passing genetic diseases to their offspring.

A landmark decision by UK's Department of Health has opened the door to controversial treatments for inherited diseases that use donated DNA from a second donor mother, despite fears it might lead to "designer babies".

The department announced that the UK government intends to publish draft regulations later this year in a public consultation about the in vitro fertilisation IVF-based techniques to eradicate mitochondrial diseases.

The new regulations to fertility law allowing the procedures will be issued for consultation and then debated in Parliament, the 'Sky News' reported.

In case the MPs find the regulations ethically acceptable, the first patients could be treated within months. It is envisaged that between five and 10 three-parent babies would be born in Britain each year.

The aim of the IVF treatments is to stamp out serious mitochondrial diseases which can be passed from a mother to her children.

Mitochondria replacement involves transferring nuclear genetic material from a mother's egg or embryo into a donor egg or embryo that has had its nuclear DNA removed so the embryo does not inherit the mitochondrial disease.

This would allow a woman carrying mitochondrial diseases to have healthy children.

"Mitochondrial disease, including heart disease, liver disease, loss of muscle co-ordination and other serious conditions like muscular dystrophy, can have a devastating impact on the people who inherit it," Chief Medical Officer Professor Dame Sally Davies said.

"People who have it live with debilitating illness, and women who are affected face passing it on to their children. It's only right that we look to introduce this life-saving treatment as soon as we can," said Davies.

However, some groups believe the techniques are ethically questionable.

They fear the techniques will result in a tiny trace of DNA from the donor egg's mitochondria, effectively creating a baby with three genetic parents.

According to Josephine Quintavalle, founder of the group Comment on Reproductive Ethics, creation of babies with genetic material from more than two people is incompatible with both human dignity and international law.

Image: A woman works with human genetic material at a laboratory

Photograph: Reuters

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