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Beacon Transcript – Three parents babies have been officially allowed in the United Kingdom in a move that is likely to bring both controversies and potential advances.
The three parents babies description may seem somewhat odd. Science has accounted for new medical advancements and innovations. More and more studies and trials are being carried out. Quite a number of such studies are targeted on gene practices.
One such practice is the use of mitochondrial DNA. This is the DNA contained by the mitochondria. These carry about 37 genes in humans. It was also the first significant human genome part to be sequenced.
In most cases, mitochondrial DNA is transmitted to a baby solely from their mother. But this DNA may sometimes carry genetic problems.
This is where the three parents babies strategy comes in. In order to prevent potential bad gene transmissions, scientists can now introduce healthy genes.
The technique is used for in-vitro fertilization. Third party healthy genes can be donated. Such mitochondrial DNA samples can be used to replace faulty mother DNA. As such, the mitochondrial DNA inherited from the mother would be replaced.
Last week, the United Kingdom approved the use of such a method. They are the first country to legalize the technique. It has had and will probably still face medical and ethical concerns.
The medical concerns are targeting the safety of such a practice. HFEA or the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority is the United Kingdom fertility regulator.
They have approved the technique and reported to have carried out investigations. The legalization came two weeks after such an investigation.
Last month, HFEA convened an independent expert scientific panel. They published their fourth review on the efficiency and safety of mitochondrial donations.
According to them, the three parents babies is safe to use. However, they did recommend a series of regulations. As such, they advised a cautious use of the technique. It could be used as a risks reduction treatment.
It would target specific cases, where alternative treatments would be of little or no use. Such cases would involve mothers that risk passing mitochondrial diseases.
Three parents babies have reportedly already been born. A reportedly unpublished study is said to contain information about the baby. A boy, he is said to be healthy and to carry no mitochondrial diseases.
Mitochondrial diseases can have debilitating effects. Symptoms of such issues commonly appear during childhood. They may indicate neurological disorders, heart diseases, or stunted growth. Just a few of the many more examples, such problems could also lead to death.
A cure for such disease-only symptom management has yet to be found. The New York Stem Cell Foundation Research Institute released a statistic. According to it, 1 in an estimated 5,000 to 10,000 babies are born with such problems. The figures are based on a yearly count.
Mitochondrial DNA donations have already evolved into two methods. They are both based on in-vitro fertilization technique. A donor egg can be introduced either after or before fertilization.
It is considered that even a small third party DNA incorporation can help. It would prevent the passing on of potentially debilitating mitochondrial conditions.
The method will have to be closely followed, though. Medical authorities are concerned about possibly unforeseen consequences.
At the same time, ethical groups are already opposing the technique. Some have taken to naming it child experimentation. They consider it an unnecessary risk.
Medical groups, on their part, draw attention to three parents babies technique benefits. They view it as a potential chance of curing inherited conditions.
Sally Cheshire, the HFEA chairwoman, released a statement. She acknowledged the fact that allowing three parents babies is a historic decision.
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