(NaturalNews) In the United Kingdom, procreating is heading down a “slippery slope,” some are saying. Soon, having a baby might no longer be between just one man and one woman. A new law in the UK would allow a man to procreate using the cells from two women using a controversial mitochondrial transfer procedure.
The procedure isn’t designed for ordinary procreation but is reserved for serious cases of mitochondrial disease including muscular dystrophy. While scientists do not understand the root causes behind mitochondrial disease, they do understand that the conditions are always passed on from a mother’s mitochondrial DNA. Some families lose child after child to these mitochondrial diseases that restrict the newborn from having sufficient energy to function. After all, it’s the mitochondria of the cell that produce the energy. If a second woman with healthy mitochondria is brought in as a donor and her fertilized embryo containing healthy mitochondria is used in combination, then the disease can easily be prevented before the egg is implanted back into the mother’s womb. Since mitochondria contain 0.1 percent of the total genes of a person, donating mitochondria means a child would contain DNA from three parents.
UK Parliament to vote on legalizing three-parent babies
The UK Parliament outlined some important rules for allowing three-parent babies. In each case, fertility must be assessed beforehand on a case by case basis that proves a significant risk for disability or serious illness. All fertility clinics would be required to have a special license to carry out the procedure. The woman who donates her egg would be considered not related to the child and would not to be connected in any way, even though they share DNA. Also, the newborn will have no right to any information about the donor who contributed her mitochondrial DNA. They estimate that only about 10 cases will be allowed each year, and these will begin in Newcastle, the place where doctors first pioneered the procedure. The rules are set to be voted on in May 2015, making the procedure legal by the end of 2015.
“The government considers that the time is now right to give Parliament the opportunity to consider and vote on these regulations,” said Public Health Minister Jane Ellison. Professor Doug Turnbull, from Newcastle University, is excited to help families gain access to the procedure.
“We want to apply for a licence next year and hope to do it [the procedure] in 2015,” he said. This would prevent babies with rare mitochondrial disease form needing feeding tubes to survive. Experts estimate that one in every 6,500 babies has a severe mitochondrial disease needing continuous monitoring and treatment. The procedure could help prevent muscle wasting, nerve damage, loss of sight and heart failure.
The three-parent procedure also comes with a heavy amount of opposition. Dr. David King of Human Genetics Alert says the procedure crosses the “crucial ethical line that will open the door to designer babies based on scientific misinformation.”
How the procedure works
How the procedure works is simple from a spectator’s standpoint. One method requires two sets of parents. The parents fertilize one egg with sperm. The donors fertilize another egg with sperm. In the lab, both embryos are stripped of their pronuclei, which contains genetic information. The parents’ proneuclei is preserved and added to the donor’s embryo, which is ultimately implanted into the mother’s womb. This means that the nucleus of the parents’ embryo is moved into the donor’s embryo, which contains cytoplasm and healthy functioning mitochondria. The parents’ nucleus contains the majority of the DNA but uses a slight amount of DNA from the donor’s healthy mitochondria.