LONDON (TIP): Britain has announced a series of laws — the first of its kind in the world — which will concern babies being born with three genetic parents in the UK.
One of the laws will be that only two of the three adults involved in the process will be considered legal parents of the offspring.
Other regulations include that the fertility regulator must assess each case for a significant risk of disability or serious illness, fertility clinics would need a new licence to offer the technique, the woman donating her egg would not be related to the child and any child born would have no right to information about the donor.
The first baby in Britain with three genetic parents is all set to take birth by next year.
Fetuses can now be conceived using genetic material from three people — a mother, father, and a second woman, who serves as a donor of a vital cellular component.
The controversial IVF method will prevent mothers from passing on serious mitochondrial diseases to their children. Mitochondrial disease is passed from mother to child through faults in the mitochondrial DNA. It is estimated that 1 in 6,500 children are born every year in the UK with a serious mitochondrial DNA disorder.
The defect lies in so-called mitochondria, the “power houses” of cells. To get rid of defective mitochondria the nucleus of one egg cell has to be transferred to another egg cell bearing intact mitochondria.
Mitochondria are cell organelles located within animal and human cells. They produce energy for the organism, possess their own genetic material -mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) – and are transmitted exclusively by the mother.
Depending on their activity and tasks, different numbers of mitochondria are present in a cell -usually a few hundred to a thousand per body cell. Inherited mitochondrial disorders occur in about one of 10,000 humans throughout the world. Diseases such as diabetes, stroke, cardiac defects, epilepsy, or muscle weakness may originate from mitochondrial defects.
Inherited mitochondrial disorders have been incurable so far. Therefore, efforts are now being made to enable women with this disease to bear healthy children by means of nuclear transfer.
The process is currently illegal throughout the world.
The technique was pioneered by researchers in Newcastle, and the first of the procedures will be carried out in that city. The new regulations would likely keep such conceptions down to just 10 zygotes each year. “I’m delighted that it’s being moved forward to the next stage. We want to apply for a licence next year and hope to do the procedure in 2015,” Doug Turnbull of Newcastle University said.
Regulations will remain in draft form until Parliament votes on the rules around May 2015.
Public Health Minister Jane Ellison said “The government considers that the time is now right to give Parliament the opportunity to consider and vote on these regulations”.
Rules clearly state that the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) would have to be satisfied that there is both a particular risk of mitochondrial abnormality and a significant risk the person will develop a serious illness or condition. The HFEA will consider each application on a case-by-case basis.