United Kingdom approves 'three-parent baby' procedure

Fertility doctors in Newcastle have been awarded the first licence to prevent inherited disease by creating a baby with three genetic parents. The resulting egg would have genetic material from two women and would then be fertilized via in vitro fertilization by a man, resulting in three biological parents.

Some women carry genetic defects in their mitochondria which can be passed onto their children - hence the need for a second female donor.

In the procedure, scientists use the mother's egg, but they remove the nuclear DNA from it.

Using a technique known as mitochondrial replacement, doctors were able to extract the nucleus from one of the mother's eggs, inserting it into a donor egg with a nucleus removed. If there's something wrong with the battery, it could cause incurable, debilitating conditions like heart problems, muscular dystrophy or severe neurological disorders. Mitochondria provide humans with energy and are present in nearly every cell within the body. The scientists who performed the procedure selected a male embryo on objective, to ensure that if he does wind up with problematic mitochondrial mutations, he can't pass them along to his offspring.

Prof Sir Doug Turnbull, the director of the Wellcome Centre for mitochondrial research at Newcastle University, said: "I am delighted for patients as this will allow women with mitochondria DNA mutations the opportunity for more reproductive choice".

"It's a great testament to the regulatory system here in the United Kingdom that research innovation can be applied in treatment to help families affected by these devastating diseases", said Mary Herbert, professor of reproductive biology at Newcastle University.

The world's first baby created using mitochondrial replacement, however, has already been born in Mexico, where there have never been any laws banning the practice.

The resulting embryo ends up with nucleus DNA from its parents but mitochondrial DNA from a donor.

Last year, US -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.

On Thursday, it issued the first license for the procedure to the Newcastle Fertility Centre. So, each woman that wants to undergo the process can apply, and after being approved, the process could start.

To use this method the clinic must receive an approbation, and this approbation would be the result of an individual patient application.

  • Lila Blake