Doctors have been given the go-ahead to help make babies from two women and one man. The UK’s fertility regulator has approved the move, despite widespread criticism about playing God.
Medics in Newcastle, in the North East, have developed the method so they can prevent children from being born with deadly or life-limiting genetic diseases.
The three-parent babies are set to be born at the end of 2017 or into 2018. The procedure is an advanced form of IVF which uses a donor egg to prevent diseases being passed down from the mother. The mother’s own egg is also used as well as a father’s sperm.
It means that the baby will have the ‘faulty’ part of their mother’s DNA removed and only a tiny bit of DNA from a female donor. Regulators have now decided that the procedure is legal, ethical, and ready to go ahead.
The decision has been described as one of “historic importance”. However, Sally Cheshire from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority said that it was not a rash move, but a “cautious go ahead”.
She added that she was certain patients would be delighted by the decision. However, the tecnique has come under fire, with some scientists saying it is a slippery slope from this to genetically-modified “designer babies”.
Currently, only Newcastle has permission, and only where the changes of a baby developing a genetic mitochondrial disease is extremely high. These disorders are complex ones where the body cannot generate the energy necessary for cells to work properly.
Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust believes it will help 25 couples annually. The Newcastle Fertility Centre’s Professor Mary Herbert said she was gratified to finally be able to help families affected by such devastating conditions. One in 4,300 children are born with severe mitochondrial diseases which can often prove fatal.