December 10, 2022

UK to consider three-parent IVF

The controversial practice known as “three-parent IVF” has drawn one step closer in the UK with the government’s announcement of public consultation into its acceptability. The Wellcome Trust has also announced that it would allocate extra funds to expand research into the technique, which uses genetic material from 3 parents – 2 women and a man – to build a baby. The procedure, which currently banned, is a response to mitochondrial disease – defects in the small frameworks called mitochondria which surround the cell nucleus.

The controversial practice known as “three-parent IVF” has drawn one step closer in the UK with the government’s announcement of public consultation into its acceptability. The Wellcome Trust has also announced that it would allocate extra funds to expand research into the technique, which uses genetic material from 3 parents – 2 women and a man – to build a baby. The procedure, which currently banned, is a response to mitochondrial disease – defects in the small frameworks called mitochondria which surround the cell nucleus.

Mitochondrial diseases are inherited from the mother. They are rare – only about 100 affected children are born each year in the UK – but often very disabling. The proposed procedure involves extracting the nucleus from an affected woman’s egg, transferring it to the shell of an egg supplied by a donor with healthy mitochondria, then fertilising it with the sperm of the affected woman’s partner.

The ensuing baby would have genetic characteristics mainly from its mother and father, and some from the third parent – the donor. In another method, the woman’s egg is fertilised with her partner’s sperm and then transferred into the donor egg.

Strictly speaking, the procedure does not cure the disease at all and it will be of no help to current sufferers. Instead, it creates an embryo which lacks the disease. It is not clear whether the procedure itself is safe.

The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children said: “These macabre experiments are both destructive and dangerous and therefore unethical. Scientists should abandon the spurious field of destructive embryo experimentation and instead promote the ethical alternative of adult stem-cell research, which is already providing cures and treatments for the same conditions.” ~ Independent, Jan 20

Jared Yee
mitochondrial disease
three-parent embryos
UK