9th August 2013 | by MFC Team
New genetic treatment offers fertility hope for women with hereditary diseases
For women who carry genetic markers for debilitating hereditary diseases, a new genetic treatment may offer hope for having a healthy baby.
In this new treatment, “defective” DNA from the egg of a woman who carries the genetic markers for a hereditary disease is replaced with healthier genetic material from a donor egg. The genetically altered egg is then fertilized with the partner’s or donor sperm, with the resulting embryo being transferred to the woman’s uterus. While a child conceived using this genetic treatment technically has three parents – the donor contributes only the mitochondrial DNA critical to eliminating the hereditary predisposition for the disease carried by the mother. As in normal pregnancies, the genetic parents contribute the DNA that determines the fundamental characteristics of the child (e.g. hair and eye colour, facial features, height, etc.).
Britain could be the first country to sanction the treatment. Later this year legislators will reportedly publish draft regulations which may increase the chances of the treatment being approved. However, critics express concern about the ethics of the treatment, suggesting it could open the door to the creation of “designer babies” (i.e., the ability for parents to choose some of their child’s physical attributes). The UK Government’s CEO, Professor Dame Sally Davies disagrees, emphasizing the role of this treatment in ensuring the birth of healthy babies who, without the treatment, may have been born with extremely debilitating and often fatal illnesses:
“Scientists have developed ground-breaking new procedures which could stop these diseases being passed on, bringing hope to many families seeking to prevent their future children inheriting them…It’s only right that we look to introduce this life-saving treatment as soon as we can… I think we will save some five to ten babies from being born with ghastly disease and early death without changing what they look like, or how they behave, and it will help mothers to have their own babies.”
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