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Fertilization with genetic material from three parents

Fertilization with genetic material from three parents

British government to approve fertilization for children with two biological mothers and one father

The British government is expected to agree to an artificial insemination procedure in which the genetic makeup is used by two mothers and one father. Britain's main health advisor is explicitly in favor of the new technology to enable women with genetic defects to give birth to healthy children. The key lies in the DNA of the so-called mitochondria, which make up only a small part of the genes, but can pass on genetic defects.

Artificial insemination with genetic material from three parents
Three biological parents for a child? The British government should consult on this question. It is about a bill that would allow artificial insemination involving two mothers and one father. This method is intended to help women with genetic defects in the mitochondrial genome to still have healthy children. Sally Davies, the UK government's primary health advisor, advocates the method.

The UK's Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority (HFEA) had previously noted that there was "broad support" for the new method in public.

"Scientists have developed a breakthrough new process that stops this disease before inheritance and gives many families the hope of not passing it on to their future children," Davies told BBC. "It is only right that we implement this life-saving procedure as soon as possible." Although it is a sensitive matter, the change in the mitochondria is okay for her personally.

With a new method of artificial insemination, the donor's genetic make-up is only five parts per thousand. When fertilized, the male's genetic make-up usually reaches the female's egg cell, which not only contains DNA in the nucleus but also in the mitochondria, the energy power plants in the plasma of the cells. Some women have a genetic defect that affects this mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA). If this is the case, this can trigger serious abnormalities in the child's organs, such as degeneration of the brain, heart defects and blindness. Those affected usually have only a short life expectancy. However, the mtDNA is not responsible for the similarity between relatives.

With the new method, the cell nucleus of an egg cell can be exchanged, so that a child receives the DNA of the future mother, but the remaining egg cell with the mtDNA comes from a healthy donor. The child would then carry the genetic makeup of three people, with the donor's genetic material making up only about five per thousand.

Should the UK government agree to the new artificial insemination procedure, it would be the first country to use this method. According to the BBC, the procedure would only be considered for about ten couples a year.

Critics reject artificial insemination with three parents. Critics see a high psychological stress especially for the children if they have two mothers, so to speak. There are also other ethical and moral reasons. "These techniques are unnecessary and unsafe and were in fact rejected by the majority," said Dr. David King of “Human Genetics Alert” versus “BBC”. "It is a disaster that the decision to cross the line, which could ultimately lead to a eugenic designer baby market, should be made on the basis of completely biased and inadequate advice."

The new method is currently being tested in the laboratory, and the resulting embryos must not be implanted in a uterus. (ag)

Image: Thommy Weiss / pixelio.de

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