The health secretary is being lobbied to allow IVF babies to be created using DNA from three parents to stop genetic defect
The UK could be the first country to allow IVF babies to be created using DNA from three people.
This is currently illegal, but a UK fertility watchdog is lobbying health secretary Jeremy Hunt to lift the ban in order to stop a genetic defect.
Despite fears of ‘genetic engineering’ from some quarters, The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority has told the government there is no evidence three-person IVF is unsafe.
Lifting the ban would allow people with genetic mitochondiral disorders the hope of having a family.
One in 6,500 people have faulty mitochondria – the rod-like structures supplying energy to cells – leading to diseases such as muscular dystrophy. In severe cases most of the mitochondria are damaged and disease in a child is much more likely.
Three-person IVF would work by removing the nucleus from either an unfertilised egg or the mixture of the mother’s and father’s nuclear DNA after fertilisation and implanting it in the ‘shell’ of a healthy donor egg.
This would allow a child to have healthy mitochondria from a third person. A child born this way would have DNA predominantly from two parents, as well as a tiny amount from a third female donor.
Dr Catherine Elliott, of the Medical Research Council, said: ‘There is a compelling clinical need to make these treatments available.’
The Department of Health stated it would respond to the lobbying when it had ‘received detailed advice over the next few weeks’.