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U.K. MPs say yes to three-parent babies: Do you?

The U.K. parliament made history this week by voting yes to a “three-parent” IVF technique, which would allow hundreds of childless British couples to have a family of their own.

Get ready to read a lot about three-parent babies. Otherwise known as mitochondrial donation, and developed by Newcastle University scientists, this is a form of IVF in which a baby born has DNA from a mother, a father and a female donor. The technique is only at the research stage in British and American labs and the proposed new laws still have to be given the green light by Britain’s upper house. However, the House of Lords is expected to support Parliament’s decision.

The technique has been developed to help families with mitochondrial diseases, which are incurable illnesses passed down through the mother’s side of the family that affect around one in 6,500 children across the world. Affected children may suffer catastrophic organ failure, severe epilepsy or even agonising death.

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How are three-parent babies created?

In simple terms, the part of the mother’s egg that contains the mitochondrial DNA is replaced with healthy DNA from a female donor in the IVF clinic. If successful, this would stop children being born with serious conditions like muscular dystrophy.

Sounds good, right? Well, yes — and no. The controversy surrounding this proposal is that a child born via this technique would, effectively, have two mothers and this opens up the old “designer baby” debate. Some experts have warned that three-parent babies could be more likely to develop cancer, are at a greater risk of premature ageing and would need to be monitored their entire lives.

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“The intention in making these regulations is to ensure that mothers who carry faulty mitochondria can have healthy children free from devastating and often deadly conditions caused by serious mitochondrial disease,” Professor Dame Sally Davies, Chief Medical Officer for England, told The Telegraph. “It is important to remember that mitochondrial DNA represents less than 0.054 per cent of the total DNA and is not part of the nuclear DNA, which determines our personal characteristics and traits such as personality, hair and eye colour. It is only right that we introduce this life-saving treatment as soon as we can so we can give hope to hundreds of U.K. families.”

What do you think?

“This is an amazing development for families dealing with mitochondrial disorders. To be able to cure these extremely painful conditions is amazing.” Tracey, 29

“If the requisite ethical standards are upheld, why shouldn’t families affected by mitochondrial conditions be able to have a healthy child?” Nikki, 31


“We do not yet know the interaction between the mitochondria and nuclear DNA. To say that it is the same as changing a battery is facile. It’s an extremely complex thing,” Dr. Trevor Stammers, Programme Director in Bioethics and Medical Law at St Mary’s University, told The Telegraph.

What do you think?

“It’s dangerous to mess with genetics in this way. Nobody really knows what the long-term repercussions will be.” Sarah, 34.

“I understand the longing to have a biological child. But there are thousands of children in the U.K. who desperately need to be adopted by loving parents. Shouldn’t they be the priority?” Julianne, 42.

More on pregnancy

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When friends “solve” your miscarriage by telling you to try again
How embryo adoption created a family

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