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UK Parliament votes to allow three-person IVF

View profile for Liza Gatrell
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On the 3rd February 2015 British MPs passed legislation that will allow children to be conceived using the genetic material from three different people to eradicate mitochondrial disease.

Mitochondrial disease is where the DNA which comes from the mother via her egg is faulty. This disease can cause a range of debilitating conditions and, in many cases, premature death.

The procedure involves taking a human egg or embryo from the affected mother and replacing the faulty mitochondrial DNA with healthy mitochondrial DNA from another woman. Babies born through this procedure will have 0.1% of their DNA donated and this donation will create a permanent change in their genetic make up.

This procedure means that affected parents are able to conceive their own genetic child free from mitochondrial disease. It also means that the condition will be eradicated for all future generations of the same family.

It is important to understand that the donor will pass none of her genetic characteristics to the child; she simply provides the power to help the cells function normally.

Up until now the law has prevented the use of this technique in treatment to conceive a child. The House of Commons have voted to change this and permit the technique to be used in closely monitored circumstances. The legislation must now go through a further vote in the House of Lords before becoming law. If approved the UK will be the first country where such a procedure is legally allowed and it is thought that the first baby born following mitochondrial donation might be born in 2016.

There has been much debate concerning the complex scientific and ethical issues surrounding this type of donation, perhaps the biggest concern voiced being that we may be starting down the road towards so called ‘designer babies’. However, families who have lived through the effects of this disease would say that the impact of the same upon their lives has been devastating and that we have a social responsibility to prevent pain and suffering where we are able to.

I will keep you posted on the developments.

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