Tuesday brought a new and unexplored territory to the attention of British lawmakers: the union of science and fertility. Great Britain is on the verge of becoming the first country to permit the three-parent IVF, the method which uses genetic material from three persons: a mother, a father, and a female donor.
The lawmakers have to approve or deny this kind of in-vitro fertilization, which is designed to reduce the risk of transmitting incurable or inherited diseases from mother to child through mitochondrial DNA.
Supporters of the law argue that it would bring hope to parents who are afraid of passing along illnesses like muscular dystrophy or Huntington’s disease to their children. However, there are fierce critics on the other side of the problem, questioning the ethical side of the proposal. These people believe three-parent IVF might be the first step in creating the so-called “designer babies”.
Experts in the matter confirm there is no evidence of unsafety of this procedure, but advise that the issue be treated with great care and careful progress. If the proposal receives a “yes” from the members of the Parliament, the 2008 Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act moves onto the House of Lords, who will vote on it next month. If all goes as expected, the first “three parent” baby should be expected as early as next year.
All the babies that would be born according to this procedure will receive all the important genetic material from their mother and father, and a small, protective amount of DNA from a female donor, whose identity would not be disclosed. The purpose of this proposal is helping more than 2,500 women from the UK who are at risk of transmitting various genetic diseases to their offspring through bits of faulty mitochondria DNA.
If the law will change, experts assess that about 0.2 percent of the baby’s DNA would be received from the female donor, and opponents of the legislative proposal argue that this change might be the beginning of genetically personalized babies.
Jacob Rees-Mogg, Member of the Parliament, says he will vote against the change, because, in the current situations, laws and regulations present very precise boundaries about altering baby DNA. If the law passes, those boundaries will start becoming blurred, even if it will allow a small change in the genes, shifting the mentality on altering DNA considerably.
Image Source: Bourn Hall Clinic Blog