Britain sets out plans for first "3-parent" IVF babies

Thu Feb 27, 2014 11:55am EST
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By Kate Kelland, Health and Science Correspondent

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain proposed new regulations on Thursday that would make it the first country in the world to offer "three-parent" fertility treatments to families who want to avoid passing on incurable diseases to their children.

The move was praised by doctors and but feared by critics, who say the technique will lead to the creation of genetically modified designer babies.

The technique 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.

The British plans come as medical advisers in the United States began a series of public hearings this week to consider whether there is scientific justification for allowing human trials of the technique.

The treatment, 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.

The process involves 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.

It is 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.

"JUMPING THE GUN"   Continued...