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Babies born with three 'parents'

8 May 2001
By BioNews
Appeared in BioNews 106

Scientists in the US have announced that babies have been born carrying the DNA of three parents: two women and a man. The babies were the result of a controversial program using ooplasmic transplantation - effectively adding cytoplasm from a donor woman's egg to that surrounding the nucleus of an infertile woman's egg.

The technique was designed to increase success levels of IVF treatment in older women by introducing mitochondria - the powerhouses of cells - from the cytoplasm of the eggs of younger women. The actual genetic information of the mother will not be changed, but because mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) carries its own genetic information, it has been reported that, technically, the babies have three parents.

The introduction of mtDNA has also caused concern because the 'mixture of genes' will be inheritable - the genetic information contained in the mitochondria will be passed down the maternal line to future generations.

The cytoplasmic transplantation technique is banned in many countries because of concerns about genetic implications and ethical and moral concerns, and the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority has decided not to license it in this country. But it has been claimed by a team led by Dr Jacques Cohen, from the Institute for Reproductive Medicine and Science of St Barnabas in New Jersey, that in recent years about 30 children worldwide have been born using the technique. Fifteen of the babies have been born following treatment at the Institute.

The technique has been criticised by an editorial in Science, which warned that it is naive to assume that mtDNA does not affect the wider workings of the human body. The HFEA called it an unwelcome development that 'adds additional concern to their existing worries'.

Babies born with two mothers and one father
The Daily Telegraph |  5 May 2001
Gene-altered babies spark debate
MSNBC |  4 May 2001
Genetically altered babies born
BBC News Online |  4 May 2001
IVF breakthrough modifies genes
The Guardian |  5 May 2001
14 March 2011 - by MacKenna Roberts 
Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley has asked the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) to convene an expert group 'to assess the effectiveness and safety' of a fertility treatment that would enable children to be born without potentially devastating, incurable mitochondrial diseases.
11 February 2008 - by Dr Rebecca Robey 
Scientists at the University of Newcastle are developing a technique that they hope will enable women with a group of devastating hereditary illnesses - known as mitochondrial diseases - to have children without passing on their genetic disorders. Because the method involves sperm from one man and two eggs...
21 October 2004 - by BioNews 
Scientists at the University of Newcastle are applying for a licence to create embryos with 'three parents', in order to prevent genetic conditions caused by faults in the 'powerhouses' of the cell. Doug Turnbull and Mary Herbert have submitted an application to the UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, which...
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