Making a baby with two parents is pretty cool, I guess – but what if your baby could have DNA from three different biological parents? Well science has already done it – it’s a real thing, and it’s about to be ready for clinical use.
Though it sounds like the kind of thing scientists do just to prove they can, the process has actually been developed to help fight genetic diseases. About one in every 5,000 kids are born with mutated genes, and Douglass Turnbull at Newcastle University wanted to find a way to help children who are likely to inherit mitochondrial mutations from one of their parents.
By using three-person in vitro fertilization, Turnbull has been able to transfer nuclear genetic material from the egg of a woman with mutant mitochondria into another woman’s healthy egg, which is then fertilized by male sperm. This effectively gives the child DNA from all three parents, and allows the child to be born without any mutations, keeping them free of genetic disease.
Three-person IVF has been tested in mice, monkeys, and human cells in culture, and now the UK Parliament is going to hold a vote on whether or not to go to full human trials. If the vote passes, this will be the first time a country has allowed for the genetic modification of fetuses. But this “isn’t designer babies,” says Turnbull. “This is about preventing serious, life-threatening, disabling diseases.”
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