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UK became the 1st country to legally approve 3-parent technique

Dec 19, 2016 15:00 IST

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) of the United Kingdom (UK) on 15 December 2016 approved the 3-parent technique.

A 3-parent baby contains Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) from three parents. This technique allows parents with rare genetic mutations to have healthy babies by replacing a mother's faulty mitochondrial DNA (mDNA) with another woman's mDNA.

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With the present approval, the UK has become the first country in the world to legally approve the controversial medical advancement.

Though Mexico became home to the first baby with this technique in September 2016 itself, the country has no explicit legal stance on this issue so far.

About the 3-parent baby technique

• Mitochondria are structures in cells which generate vital energy and contain their own set of genes called mDNA.

• Mitochondrial diseases are passed through the mother and cause symptoms ranging from poor vision to diabetes and muscle wasting.

• The technique involves in vitro fertilization of both the mother's egg and a donor's egg with the father's sperm.

• Before these two fertilised eggs begin dividing into an embryo, the unhealthy mother’s egg nucleus is replaced with egg's nucleus of a healthy donor.

• This gives the doctors with a fertilised egg with a healthy donor mitochondria and the mother's DNA in the nucleus.

• This fertilised egg with the donor’s healthy mitochondria will be implanted in the mother’s uterus.

Controversies

• After years of research, the 3-parent baby technique proved to be the only viable therapy for parents with rare genetic mutations to have healthy babies.

• However, replacing a mother's faulty mitochondrial DNA is not that simple. The technique has been criticised because of the ethical dimensions involved in the process.

• Firstly, the pro-life believers argue that the technique involves the destruction of life. They maintain that the technique is not foolproof as it is not sure that every fertilised egg is healthy. Hence, the undesirable eggs are destroyed before they reach the mother’s womb.

• Secondly, there are apprehensions among the scientific community that the technique may open the way to creation of designer babies.

• A designer baby is a genetically engineered baby with specially selected traits such as gender, appearance, intelligence, etc.

• Though the designer baby technology is aimed at developing a healthy human being, it is vulnerable to misuse with far-reaching social, economic and political consequences.

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