In what embryologists are calling "a huge deal," a baby has been born using a new three-person fertility technique. It's a world first, and has brought happiness to a Jordanian family who was unable to have children without it.
The unidentified baby boy is now 5 months old, and has the usual DNA from his mother and father, as well as a tiny bit of genetic code from a donor. A team of U.S. doctors from New Hope Fertility Center in New York City took the unprecedented (and somewhat controversial) step to make sure he would be born free of a genetic condition carried by his mother in her genes — a disorder called Leigh Syndrome that would have proved fatal to any baby conceived. The procedure, known as mitochondrial donation, was carried out in Mexico because there are no laws against it there. It involves taking all the vital DNA from the mother's egg and adding healthy mitochondria from the donor egg to create a healthy new egg that can be fertilized with the father's sperm.
While this isn't the first time scientists have created babies that have DNA from three people, mitochondrial donation is an entirely new and significant method that could help many other families who are unable to have children because of rare genetic conditions.
In the U.K., laws have already been passed to allow the creation of babies from the DNA of three people.
But critics of the new technique speculate that many failed attempts may have gone unreported before we heard this success story. Those who oppose mitochondrial donation on ethical grounds question how a child born using this technique might feel about having DNA from three people. Others warn that three-person babies may be more likely to develop cancer, have a higher risk of premature aging and may require close monitoring for their whole lives.
Dr. John Zhang, who led the team from New Hope Fertility Center, will answer questions on the technique when they present their findings at a meeting of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine in October.
There's no doubt that revolutionary new techniques like this will always come with complex ethical issues. But for families who are desperately in need of it to fulfill their baby dreams, it's hard not to see it as a positive breakthrough.
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