Britain plans world's first go-ahead for '3-parent' IVF babies

Thu Jun 27, 2013 7:05pm EDT
 
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By Kate Kelland, Health and Science Correspondent

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain is planning to become the first country in the world to offer controversial "three-parent" fertility treatments to families who want to avoid passing on incurable diseases to their children.

The methods, currently only at the research stage in laboratories in Britain and the United States, would for the first time involve implanting genetically modified embryos into women, and raise serious ethical questions.

The techniques involve intervening in the fertilization process to remove faulty mitochondrial DNA, which can cause inherited conditions such as fatal heart problems, liver failure, brain disorders, blindness and muscular dystrophy.

They are designed to help families with mitochondrial diseases - incurable conditions passed down the maternal line that affect around one in 6,500 children worldwide. Mitochondria act as tiny energy-generating batteries inside cells,

The controversial potential treatment is known as three-parent in vitro fertilization (IVF) because the offspring would have genes from a mother, a father and from a female donor.

After a national public consultation showed Britons broadly favor the idea, the government's chief physician said on Friday it should be allowed to go ahead under strict regulation.

"Scientists have developed ground-breaking new procedures which could stop these diseases being passed on, bringing hope to many families seeking to prevent their children inheriting them," Sally Davies, chief medical officer, told reporters.

"It's only right that we look to introduce this life-saving treatment as soon as we can."   Continued...