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3 Parent Babies

Introduction:

3 Parent Babies

The ‘Three Parent Baby’ mechanism involves the replacement of a small amount of faulty DNA in a mother’s egg with healthy DNA from a second woman. This results in the baby inheriting genes from two mothers and one father. The idea is to prohibit certain genetic diseases being passed on to children. In simple words when a baby is born from the DNAs of three people then we generally call it a three- parent- baby. But in order to know its exact meaning, we will have to discuss its technical terms also. The first three- parent baby was born recently in the USA with the help of a technique. The technique replaces a small amount of faulty DNA in a mother’s egg with healthy DNA from a second woman. This results in the baby inheriting genes from two mothers and one father.

The idea is to prohibit certain genetic diseases being passed on to children. The technique which was used in achieving this landmark in the history of medical science is known as Spindle transfer. This technique is explained in detail below.

Spindle transfer:

The first baby, with the help of Swindle transfer, was born on 6 April after his Jordanian parents traveled to Mexico where they were cared for by US fertility specialists. The first baby’s mother has genes responsible for the fatal Leigh syndrome. Leigh syndrome is a neurological disorder which harms the developing nervous system. The faults directly affect the DNA in mitochondria, the small battery-like structures that provide cells with energy, and are passed down from mother to child.

The wife became pregnant after the then years of marriage but she lost the baby in the first of four miscarriages. The mother gave birth to a baby girl in 2005 who died at the age of six, and later, a second child who lived for only eight months. Medical Tests on the wife revealed that while she was healthy, about one-quarter of her mitochondria carried the genes for Leigh syndrome. The couple lost two children to the disease before asking for the clinic’s help.

3 Parent Babies

The couple approached the New Hope Fertility Center in New York, for help and guidance, The decision to try the mitochondrial transfer procedure. Thee took the nucleus from one of the woman’s eggs and inserted it into a healthy donor’s egg that had had its own nucleus removed. They then fertilized the egg with the husband’s sperm. The US team created five embryos but only one developed normally. This was implanted into the mother and the baby was born nine months later.

The baby is not the first child to be born with DNA from three people. Fertility doctors tried to improve the quality of women’s eggs by injecting cytoplasm. Cytoplasm is the cellular material that contains mitochondria, from healthy donor eggs. This technique led to several babies being born with DNA from the parents and the healthy donor.  But some of the children who were born, developed genetic disorders and the procedure was banned. However, this technique offered hope to mothers who carried mitochondrial DNA mutations.

Legislation on 3 parent baby:

Mitochondrial transfer was first legalized in the UK in 2015 but so far no other country has introduced laws to permit the technique. U.K. fertility clinic regulator Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has agreed to permit the “cautious use” of the technique, developed by British scientists. This technique replaces an egg’s defective mitochondrial DNA with healthy mitochondrial DNA from another female donor to prohibit the child from suffering from genetic flaws. The aim of this technique is meant for those parents who have a high risk of passing on debilitating and even fatal genetic diseases to their children.

Despite serious ethical and medical concerns, the U.K became the first country to legalize three-parent babies after its fertility regulator, Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority (HFEA) had approved the process. This decision was taken 2 weeks after an independent expert scientific panel assembled by HFEA published its fourth review of the safety and efficacy of mitochondrial donation.

The panel also opined that the technique could be used prudently for risk reduction treatments in certain cases where alternative treatments would be of little or no benefit to mothers at risk of passing mitochondrial disease on to their children.

3 Parent Babies

Ethical Issues:

  • This issue has triggered debate amongst scientists, researchers and other intelligentsia that how and when this method should be used. And it also raised some questions about the ethical justifications of this method. And there are other concerns too which involve uncertainty in the success of such methods.
  • Embryologist Jacques Cohen, who carried out mitochondrial-transfer procedures in the 1990s and who was also a regulatory adviser on such study, welcomes the news that the spindle-transfer method seems to be effective. 
  • There are concerns about the possibility that the technique could also transfer some diseased mitochondria from the mother into the donor egg along with the nucleus. The abstract claims only 5% of the embryo’s mitochondrial DNA that carried over along with the nucleus was the mother’s, but mitochondrial DNA samples taken from the baby after birth varied from tissue to tissue and suggested a level of faulty DNA that was, on average, 1.6%. 
  • At the end, it is reasonable to go with the scientific spirit and get less hampered by other doubts before seeing the complete outcome of the treatment.