Wrap-up: Designer babies

The world of medicine is on the verge of a breakthrough to fix a genetic problem.

The first ‘three-parent’ babies could be born in the UK next year after its fertility regulator gave the new technique the final go-ahead.

What is three-parent technique?
Babies born using the technique would receive a tiny amount of DNA from a third woman besides its mother & father.

When is it done?
Three-person babies have been allowed in cases in the UK where the risk of a child developing mitochondrial disease is very high.

Why only female donor?
The diseases are passed down from only the mother, hence the technique uses a female donor egg.

What about religious aspects?
The Roman Catholic Church opposes the move, pointing out that it would involve the destruction of human embryos as part of the process.

What is mitochondria?
Mitochondrial disease is caused by defective mitochondria — the tiny structures in all cells that convert food into useable energy. Thousands of children are born with severe symptoms they develop muscle weakness, blindness, deafness, seizures, learning disabilities, etc.

Will the appearance change?
Just 0.1% of a person’s DNA is held in the mitochondria. It has no influence over characteristics such as appearance and personality.

Is it first?
The first baby conceived using mitochondrial donation was born earlier this year in Mexico, where there are no rules on its use.

Playing God?
The nucleus DNA from the egg of a prospective mother is removed
Then it is inserted into a donor egg from which the donor DNA has been removed.
The resulting embryo ends up with nucleus DNA from its parents but mitochondrial DNA from a donor.

Age take
Britain is set to become the first country in the world to legally offer ‘three-parent baby’ fertility treatments after regulators gave the green light. Like any other breakthrough in science, it has obviously met with a lot of skepticism from Doubting Thomases. While it may be too early to either give it a thumbs up or rubbish it altogether, the technique certainly will be watched out for.

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