from the Kwisatz-Haderach-breeding-program dept.
The US Food and Drug Administration is holding hearings to help determine if they should allow oocyte modification of mitochondrial DNA, which could prevent hereditary diseases that cause issues, such as such as seizures and blindness, from being passed on by mothers. In layman's terms, this "three-parent IVF" would allow the mitochondrial DNA of an unaffected woman to replace that of the mother while keeping the main DNA, so the child would still look like the mother and father.
From Scientific American: "Once the mtDNA has been swapped out, the egg could be fertilized in the lab by the father's sperm and the embryo would be implanted back into mom where pregnancy would proceed. The resulting child would be the genetic offspring of the intended mother but would carry healthy mitochondrial genes from the donor."
Is this an ethical way to prevent future harm, or the start of a slippery slope to designer babies? Is the creation of designer babies immoral?
Doctors have been given permission to create the UK's first "three-parent" or "three-person" babies to mitigate the risk of inheritable mitochondrial diseases:
Doctors have received permission to create the UK's first "three-person" babies for two women at risk of passing inheritable diseases to their children.
The two cases involve women who have mitochondrial diseases, which are passed down by the mother and can prove fatal.
Three-person babies involve an advanced form of IVF that uses a donor egg, the mother's egg and the father's sperm.
Doctors at the Newcastle Fertility Centre will carry out the procedure.
The decision was approved by the UK Fertility Regulator, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA).
Also at New Scientist.
Previously: Mitochondrial DNA Manipulation and Ethics
Approval for Three-Parent Embryo Trials
Fatal Genetic Conditions Could Return in Some 'Three-Parent' Babies
Baby Girl Born in Ukraine Using Three-Parent Pronuclear Transfer Technique
FDA Warns Doctor Against Marketing Three-Person IVF Technique
Ethicists are bothered by the circumstances surrounding the world's first use of pronuclear transfer to create a baby:
It was a first for the entire world: Using a controversial in vitro fertilization technique, doctors in Kiev, Ukraine, helped a previously infertile couple conceive and deliver a baby girl. Some critics say, for genetic reasons, the use of this IVF method should have been restricted to producing a baby boy. The baby was born on January 5, the result of an experimental technique known as "pronuclear transfer" and sometimes referred to as three-parent IVF. The 34-year-old Ukrainian mother suffered from "unexplained infertility," according to Dr. Valery Zukin, director of the Nadiya Clinic for Reproductive Medicine, where the controversial pronuclear transfer technique was performed. She did not have mitochondrial disease.
[...] The reason this experimental method is a cause for concern -- and was vigorously debated in the UK before approval -- is the genetic modifications produced in a girl baby could be passed onto her children, according to Lori P. Knowles, adjunct assistant professor at the University of Alberta School of Public Health.
Boy babies carrying donor mitochondria cannot pass their modified genetics onto any future children they may have because once a sperm fuses with an egg to form an embryo, the masculine mitochondrion withers and dies leaving the resulting embryo with only mitochondrion from the mother's egg. "I do think it's highly significant that this is a girl because we know for sure that she will be passing on her mitochondrial DNA through her maternal line," said Knowles. If in the future this baby girl has genetic children, they will inherit her genetic modifications "and that's always been a really bright line," said Knowles -- a line not to be crossed until rigorous scientific testing proves it is safe.
The previous three-parent baby was conceived using spindle nuclear transfer, and couldn't pass on donor mitochondrial DNA (well, conventionally anyway) as a male. The Ukrainian procedure was used as a workaround for infertility rather than mitochondrial disease. The article also notes that Dr. Valery Zukin, director of the Nadiya Clinic for Reproductive Medicine where the procedure was performed, is also the vice president of the medical review board that approved the procedure.
The mother in question had been unable to get pregnant for 15 years. Using the procedure as an IVF technique allows doctors to bypass cells or enzymes in the mother's egg that might prevent pregnancy or hinder cell division, explains Andy Coghlan at New Scientist .