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article imageU.K. could legalize three-parent IVF

By Tim Sandle     Mar 8, 2014 in Health
Regulators in the U.K. are said to be close to approving a new mitochondrial replacement technique for creating embryos with less risk of developing certain heritable diseases.
“Three-parent” in vitro fertilization (IVF) is where two women and one man contribute DNA to the creation of a human fetus with a reduced risk of developing mitochondrial diseases. Last week Digital Journal reported that the U.S. FDA is seeking public comments on the new technology, which has the potential to circumvent mitochondrial diseases by producing embryos using DNA from three people.
Mitochondrial diseases are a group of disorders caused by dysfunctional mitochondria (mitochondria are found in every cell in the human body; they are responsible for creating more than 90 percent of the energy needed by the body to sustain life and support growth). Diseases of the mitochondria appear to cause the most damage to cells of the brain, heart, liver, skeletal muscles, kidney and the endocrine and respiratory systems.
In the U.K. the process has taken a big step towards becoming a legal procedure. The U.K. Department of Health has announced that it is opening a three-month public comment period on draft legislation that would legalize oocyte modification. This is an IVF method that involves transferring nuclear DNA from an egg cell of a woman with mitochondrial defects into the egg cell of an IVF donor egg with normal mitochondrial DNA before using donor sperm to fertilize the egg.
Commenting on this decision, Newcastle University’s Doug Turnbull, who conducts research on the procedure, told The Guardian: "This is very good news for patients with mitochondrial DNA disease and an important step in the prevention of transmission of serious mitochondrial disease."
After the public consultation ends there on May 21, the UK government will decide whether to put the legislation before parliament for approval. The public comment period is set to be interesting.
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