On Tuesday, British lawmakers overwhelmingly voted in favor of an IVF technique which allows couples to conceive a child with DNA from three different people. Britain has now become the first country in the world to approve and vote in favor of what’s regarded as a controversial treatment.
Following a heated 90-minute debate, British lawmakers voted in favor of allowing families to use DNA from three people in order to conceive. The purpose of this IVF technique is to prevent infants from being born with certain genetic diseases, which are often incurable if not fatal. However, many still harbor concerns.
Researchers claim that three-parent IVF can be used in order to prevent severe genetic disorders such as mitochondrial disease, which can compromise a child’s quality of life and cause a number of medical complications such as developmental delays, organ failure, deafness, dementia, and even heart disease.
These chronic conditions are thought to affect one in every 5,000 to 10,000 live births in the United States; however, other estimates suggest that a much higher percentage of children — one in 200 — will inherit mutations that will cause the disease. Not all children develop the disease at birth. Symptoms may manifest later in life.
On the other hand, critics caution that three-parent IVF may cross certain moral and ethical boundaries due to the fact that the baby has genetic material from three people. Others have expressed deep concern that the procedure will serve as a gateway of sorts, promoting further genetic modifications of children.
The Catholic Church takes a firm stance against the procedure because it may involve the destruction of human embryos.
While the procedure is still undergoing further research and development, initial studies have proven its efficacy. Three-parent IVF involves replacing an egg’s defective mitochondrial DNA with healthy DNA from another female donor’s egg. The end result is a baby with less than 1% of the egg donor’s DNA. However, this is a permanent change that would continue to be passed down in future generations.