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Possibility of three-parent babies moves closer

By Tim Sandle     Jun 8, 2014 in Science
The U.K.’s human embryo research agency has reported that a new mitochondrial replacement technique is safe and could be approved soon, paving the way for three-parent IVF.
In vitro fertilization (or IVF) is a process by which an egg is fertilized by sperm outside the body. It is a major and well-established treatment for infertility. For IVF to be successful it typically requires healthy ova, sperm that can fertilize, and a uterus that can maintain a pregnancy. Due to the costs of the procedure, IVF is generally attempted only after less expensive options have failed.
So what is three person IVF? It is much like two person IVF, except that the technique uses a snippet of DNA from a healthy female donor to prevent mothers passing on devastating genetic disorders.
The risk of disorders is the reason that this approach is being considered, that is to prevent mothers from passing mitochondrial diseases onto their children. These diseases include Diabetes mellitus and deafness (DAD) and Neuropathy, ataxia, retinitis pigmentosa, and ptosis (NARP). Mitochondria, the tiny energy generators inside cells, contain their own little bit of DNA, which is separate to the genetic material held in the nucleus.
The treatment is, however, controversial. This is because the genetic modifications in the embryo pass down to all future generations. The experimental procedures — so-called mitochondrial replacement techniques termed maternal spindle transfer (MSF) and pronuclear transfer (PT) — are “not unsafe” for use on a “specific and defined group of patients,” according to a report released on June 3 by the U.K.’s Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority (HFEA).
Pending this scientific validation, the possibility of three-parent IVF methods lies in the hands of the U.K. government, the BBC reports. The procedures are currently illegal in the U.K., and changing that law will require Parliament’ary approval.
More about Babies, Parents, Human embryo, mitochondria, Ivf
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