A vote in the House of Parliament made Great Britain the first country in the world to allow the use of DNA from three different people to conceive IVF babies preventing transmission of serious diseases caused by mutations in mitochondrial DNA.
This technique involves the replacement of faulty mitochondrial DNA (mitochondrial are often labelled “the powerhouse of the cell” since these structures lying outside of the nucleus’ cells provide energy to our cells) by other healthy mitochondrial DNA from a second woman, giving the baby genes from two women and one man. While this procedures solves a number of genetic diseases, a handful of experts and influential groups expressed their concerns about ethical and efficiency issues.
As stated in the Guardian, “mitochondria are not completely understood, and the DNA they hold might affect people’s traits in unknown ways.” Doctor Alexandra Henrion-Claude, Research Director at the French Institute of Health and Medical Research, said to Le Figaro, “mitochondrial transfer techniques modify all the cells embryo therefore altering the embryo gene pool and non-gene pool".
Mitochondrial transfer creates numerous ethical questions concerning the use and status of mothers’ eggs, donors’ rights, psychological and physiological consequences on the babies as well as genetic mutation. Indeed, article 13 of the convention of human rights and biomedicine states: “An intervention seeking to modify the human genome may only be undertaken for preventive, diagnostic or therapeutic purposes and only if its aim is not to introduce any modification in the genome of any descendants.”
The Church of England and the Catholic Church question the ethics and safety of such a procedure. Moreover, the Catholic Church opposes pronuclear transfer because a donor’s nuclear material is destroyed along the process.
The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) approved the procedures. Effective mitochondrial transfer procedures have already been achieved on animals and human cells.
According to the Guardian, around 100 children are affected each year by generic defects in the mitochondria. Thus, parents do now have the choice to use mitochondrial donation or not as Dr. Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust, reported in the same newspaper: “Families who know what it is like to care for a child with a devastating disease are best placed to decide whether mitochondrial donation is the right option for them.” #Medicine #Science #Society