This story makes this famous saying come to mind: “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.” The U.K.’s fertility regulator granted permission to Newcastle University to develop a baby from the DNA of three people. Scientists claim this procedure could stop the mother “from passing on potentially fatal genetic diseases to their children.”
In this case, the scientists will use the procedure “to fix problems linked to mitochondria, the energy-producing structures outside a cell’s nucleus.” This condition can cause muscular dystrophy and organ failure. The Chicago Tribune reported:
To help keep women with mitochondria problems from passing them on to their children, scientists remove the nucleus DNA from the egg of a prospective mother and insert it into a donor egg from which the donor DNA has been removed. This can happen before or after fertilization. The resulting embryo ends up with nucleus DNA from its parents but mitochondrial DNA from a donor. The DNA from the donor amounts to less than 1 percent of the resulting embryo’s genes.
The license granted to Newcastle University relates only to the clinic’s capacity to perform the techniques, Britain’s fertility regulator said. The clinic must apply for each individual patient to be treated and no patient application has yet been approved.
Last year, U.S.-based doctors announced they had created the world’s first baby using such techniques, after traveling to Mexico to perform the procedure, which has not been approved in the United States.
Critics have raised concerns about the treatment, saying it will put people at unnecessary risk of an untested procedure. Some say women with faulty mitochondria should choose simply to use egg donors and that using the new techniques will open the door to genetically modified “designer babies.”
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