Britain may become the first country next year to begin using the “controversial” 3-parent DNA technique. The new technique will be one part of the new fertility regulations that are up for public review this year, before all move to Parliament. This ground-breaking technique raises a lot of questions from not only the public, but also the government and medical professionals. Will it pave the path to “unethical” altering of DNA to produce children with specific traits desired by the parents? What are the legal implications of having three biological parents? What are the emotional issues for all involved? While all of these questions are valid and will continue to be asked until well after the technique is initiated by fertility physicians, let’s break-down what exactly the technique is and what benefits it will bring.
What is the 3-parent DNA in-vitro fertilization technique?
The 3-parent IVF technique will allow for doctors to “fix” the mother’s damaged embryo cells with a 3rd party’s healthy DNA. The child born from this embryo cell will be less likely to suffer from mitochondrial disorders that they would have been predisposed to.
Mitochondrial disorders can affect many parts of the body: kidneys, heart, brain, liver, muscles, ears, etc. Heart, liver disease and kidney disease are all examples of potential diseases from mitochondrial disorders. Mitochondria are very tiny parts of every cell in your body. When they work correctly they will turn sugar and oxygen into energy. Symptoms of mitochondrial disorders tend to show early in childhood years for those affected.
The procedure involves taking the genetic nuclear material from the mother’s egg and transferring it into a “genetically cleared-out” donor egg. The new embryo will then contain DNA from the father, the mother and the donor of the embryo.
Not much is known on the short- and long-term effects of the new technique. The technique has the scientific community divided. The IVF world will be watching Britain!