The Independent newspaper in Britain [12 September 2015] reports the House of Commons in Britain has voted in favour of 3 parent babies formed by an artificial conception procedure known as mitochondrial donation and it is the first country in the world to do so.
The birth of the first three-parent baby in Britain could be as soon as 2016.
The amendment was required because beforehand it was unlawful to alter the inherited DNA in eggs or sperm.
The particular procedure they have adopted is known as pro-nuclear transfer (PNT) which:
- From the nucleus of the fertilised egg of an IVF couple takes the genetic material of the chromosomes;
- Moves it into the fertilised egg of a donor which has had its own nuclear DNA removed;
- Producing a fertilised egg which has the nuclear chromosomes of the mother and father (containing 99.9 per cent of the DNA); and
- The healthy mitochondrial DNA of the donor woman (containing the remaining 0.01 per cent);
- At the appropriate stage of development it is transplanted into the womb of the IVF patient.
The medical reasons advanced for the new law is to assist women identified as being at risk of passing on mitochondrial diseases, reported to affect about 1 in 6,500 babies in Britain. There had been limited options available to a couple confronting such risks, being they could either use donor eggs or use a pre-natal genetic diagnosis and then have their own IVF embryo implanted into their womb. The new law means a mother will have the opportunity to have their own genetically related children free from mitochondrial defects. Further, it has the potential to eliminate mitochondrial diseases from being inherited by future generations of that family.
This is a fascinating development. As a family lawyer it is interesting to look down the lens and consider future challenges to parents and challenges they might encounter should such changes also be implemented here. See for example the recent reports of Hugo’s story: