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FIRST IN THE WORLD: UK Approves Mitochondrial DNA Technique (3-Parents Baby)
Feb 12, 2015

The United Kingdom has become the first country in the world to legalize 3-person in-vitro fertilization (IVF), a method of conception that combines genes from three parents. In a free vote in the House of Commons, 382 MPs were in favour and 128 against the technique that stops genetic diseases being passed from mother to child. A further vote is required in the House of Lords. It everything goes ahead then the first such baby could be born next year.

Key Points

  • For the families affected by mitochondrial disease, this is the only option for a healthy child.

  • While some people argue changing mitochondria is akin to a blood transplant the implications are much wider.

  • This is a change that will be passed down through the generations.

  • It also asks questions about the future.

  • Some people argue about further genetic modification (Designer Baby) of children.

What are Mitochondria?

  • Mitochondria are the tiny compartments inside nearly every cell of the body that convert food into useable energy.

  • They have their own DNA, which does not affect characteristics such as appearance.

  • Defective mitochondria are passed down only from the mother.

  • They can lead to brain damage, muscle wasting, heart failure and blindness.

  • The technique uses a modified version of IVF to combine the DNA of the two parents with the healthy mitochondria of a donor woman.

  • It results in babies with 0.1% of their DNA from the second woman and is a permanent change that would be passed down through the generations.

  • Roughly one in 6,500 children worldwide is born with mitochondrial disease, and it causes their organs to slowly fail.

Mitochondrial diseases are passed down the maternal line in families, and they are caused by mutations in a small number of genes in the mitochondria—the source of chemical energy needed for our cells to sustain life.

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