Controversial “Three-Parent” Babies Legalized In Britain, Procedure Expected To Be Carried Out In 2017

By Donna Belle - 19 Dec '16 04:30AM
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  • (Photo : Photo by Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images) LA JOLLA, CA - FEBRUARY 28: Embryologist Ric Ross holds a dish with human embryos at the La Jolla IVF Clinic February 28, 2007 in La Jolla, California. The clinic accepts donated embryos from around the country through The Stem Cell resource which are then given to stem cell research labs for research.

Fertility clinics in Britain are now licensed to perform the controversial three-parent IVF (in vitro fertilization) procedure as treatment to fix debilitating genetic anomalies in babies. The legalization comes after the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority (HFEA), the main regulator of fertility clinics in the U.K. approved the "cautious use" of the procedure. This means that fertility clinics can finally apply for a license to give out application forms to interested parents and carry out the procedure. They're expecting to start using the technique in early 2017 as reported by Asia one.

The British parliament have approved the use of such treatment two years ago, but the HFEA gave the green light just recently. The regulatory board emphasizes that the procedure will be done only in specific cases where the only option to ensure the development of a healthy baby is the three-parent IVF technique.

The decision incidentally was made after the first healthy baby boy, from a Jordanian couple, was born earlier this year using the procedure. The couple suffered 2 miscarriages due to a mitochondrial defect in the mother's DNA. They volunteered for the experimental procedure and were beyond ecstatic when it paid off. The healthy baby boy was born in Mexico where the law is favorable for the technique. The three-parent IVF technique is prohibited in the U.S. for obvious ethical and medical reasons. Britain is the first country to formally legalize it.

So how does the three-parent IVF technique work?

The controversial fertility procedure involves a process of removing the defective mitochondria of the mother, replacing it with the healthy mitochondria of the second mother, and then fertilizing it with the dad's sperm. This way, the mother will no longer be passing the flawed genetic traits as stated by The Scientist.

Interestingly, pioneering clinical embryologist Jacques Cohen says the term "three-parent" is erroneous. He says that mitochondrial DNA doesn't contribute to a person's traits at all. In effect, the third parent can be hardly called a parent. This makes for an awkward legal battle in cases of custody arrangements and inheritance issues.

Despite the obvious benefits of the procedure in helping couples have a healthy family, a lot of critics are wary of the long-term effects. They say that this will open the floodgates for "designer babies". Others are suspicious of the evolutionary impact of the procedure.

In response, Dr. John Zhang, the New York physician who arranged the Mexican procedure, stated that the ethical thing to do is to save lives, and that's why they're fighting to legalize it as reported in Stuff.

What do you think about Britain's decision? Should other countries follow suit? Express your opinion on the comment section below.

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