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JCC "Three-parent baby" fertility treatment could be legalized, to combat genetic diseases

Discussion in 'Community' started by Ghost, Sep 21, 2012.

  1. Ghost

    Ghost Chosen One star 7

    Oct 13, 2003
    Link: UK Considers 3-Parent Fertility Treatments to attempt to eliminate genetic diseases

    'Three-parent baby' fertility technique could be made legal

    A fertility treatment which eliminates hereditary disease by engineering babies to carry healthy DNA from a third biological parent could be legalised next year.

    Members of the public are being asked whether families with a genetic risk of incurable conditions like muscular dystrophy should be allowed to use the DNA of a third party to create healthy children.​

    Although the resulting babies would inherit a small fraction of their DNA from the donor and not their mother or father, the procedure would spare all future generations from a host of rare and debilitating conditions.​

    The technique is currently forbidden as a treatment, but a public consultation launched today will help inform a decision by Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, on whether the clinical benefits outweigh any ethical concerns.​

    Experts accept the technique, which involves genetically modifying a human egg or embryo, enters "unchartered territory" and raises serious ethical questions.​

    As well as the moral implications of engineering embryos, there are questions over how the procedure would impact on a child's sense of identity and whether they should be allowed to contact the donor later in life.​

    Should Mr Hunt decide to give the treatment the green light the technique could be written into law as early as next year, making Britain the first country in the world to allow human trials.​

    Lisa Jardine, chair of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), which is conducting the consultation, said the issue was of "enormous public interest", and not just to affected families.​

    She said: "We find ourselves in unchartered territory, balancing the desire to help families have healthy children with the possible impact on the children themselves and wider society."​

    Comparing the ethical debate with the birth of Louise Brown, the first IVF baby, in 1978, she added that many people had expected the child to be a "monster" and seen conception outside the womb as "absolutely appalling", but that IVF has since become commonplace.​

    She said: "Here, we are going that mile further which is a genetic modification of the egg. That is uncharted territory. I feel very strongly that once we have genetic modification we have to be damn sure that we are happy, because this is not about us.​

    "This is not about our children. It's not even about our grandchildren. It's about many generations down the line what the consequences might be."​

    An estimated one in 200 children born in Britain each year is thought to have some form of mitochondrial disease, with defects in anywhere between a handful and 90 per cent of their mitochondria.​

    In the vast majority of cases, where the number of defects is low, there are no symptoms and the condition is never even diagnosed.​

    But in about one in 6,500 people the level of damage causes the development of severe medical conditions including muscular dystrophy and ataxia, a neurological condition affecting balance, coordination and speech.​

    About 99.8 per cent of our DNA, including all our visible characteristics, is contained in the cell nucleus and is passed down from our father and mother in equal measure.​

    But a small fraction consisting of 37 genes is located in the mitochondria, the tiny structures which supply power to cells, and is inherited solely from the maternal side.​

    The new technique, being developed by researchers at Newcastle University, is designed to tackle a range of genetic conditions passed to children by their mothers through mutations in these genes.​

    The mutations can cause cells to malfunction or fail completely, resulting in complications which are especially severe in parts of the body which use the most energy - the brain, heart and muscles.​

    By removing the nucleus from a woman's egg before fertilisation and implanting it into a donor egg which has had the nucleus removed, and then using the egg in traditional IVF, doctors could cut damaged mitochondria out of the family line.​

    A similar technique could be used on an embryo by removing the nuclear DNA from the mother's egg and father's sperm and implanting them into a healthy donor embryo with its nuclear DNA removed.​

    The resulting child would inherit their identity from their mother and father, but they and all future generations would have the mitochondrial DNA of the donor.​

    A survey of 800 people by the Progress Educational Trust found that two thirds supported the use of the technique while a third opposed it, while a report by the Nuffield Council on Bioethics last year claimed the approach would be ethical.​

    [continued at link]​

    I'm not sure what to think... are we sure this would even work properly, even if it was legalized and tried?
  2. solojones

    solojones Chosen One star 9

    Sep 27, 2000
  3. NYCitygurl

    NYCitygurl Manager Emeritus star 9 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Jul 20, 2002
    Very interesting. I think it would be nice if it did work--think about cutting those diseases out of our genes! It also has the potential to be very abused--though, I suppose, so do a lot of things.
  4. Violent Violet Menace

    Violent Violet Menace JCC Ravager star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Aug 11, 2004
    The key thing to understand here is that this is only transplant of the genes contained in the mitochondria, which supply power to cells. There is no talk of cluttering with the cell nucleus, where 99,8% of our DNA is located, and the vast majority of our characteristics. On a superficial level, there would be no way of telling that the kid has donor genes. This is still far away from the Gattaca kind of scenario many might be imagining, where parents would be "engineering" their children to have a specific appearance, have specific behavioral characteristics, be this tall and have that hair color and whatnot.
    morrison85 likes this.
  5. Darth Morella

    Darth Morella Jedi Grand Master star 6

    Apr 5, 2004
    I agree with this. As far as I know, the procedure only replaces defective mitochondria with those from a third-party donor. At least that's what I read from a different website.
  6. Mar17swgirl

    Mar17swgirl Jedi Grand Master star 7

    Dec 26, 2000
    Hello, sweetie.

    Everton and Juliet316 like this.
  7. Aytee-Aytee

    Aytee-Aytee Jedi Master star 5

    Jul 20, 2008
    Hooray for evolutionary tampering, thus causing the planet to become even more overpopulated.
  8. solojones

    solojones Chosen One star 9

    Sep 27, 2000
    Are you implying that Sexy is the third parent? :p
  9. Alpha-Red

    Alpha-Red Jedi Grand Master star 6

    Apr 25, 2004
    Having read this article recently, I have to wonder if our understanding of genetics is really sufficient to start messing around with stuff like this.
    Darth-Ghost likes this.
  10. Juliet316

    Juliet316 Chosen One star 10

    Apr 27, 2005
    Moff implied it first by calling her 'The child of the TARDIS". :p
  11. Mar17swgirl

    Mar17swgirl Jedi Grand Master star 7

    Dec 26, 2000
    Isn't it obvious? :p And yeah, what Juliet316 said.