Baby with DNA from three people born in Greece

DNA testing

A baby with DNA from three people has been born following a controversial fertility treatment. The doctors behind the IVF treatment, from Greece and Spain, say it marks a historic advance. It is the first time that DNA from three people has been used to address fertility problems.

The baby boy, weighing 2.9kg (6lb), was born in Greece on Tuesday and is said to be in good health.

The experimental IVF treatment is called mitochondrial donation or mitochondrial replacement therapy. It is a special form of IVF in which some or all of the baby’s mitochondrial DNA comes from a third party. Sperm is taken from the father, an egg from the mother, and another egg from a female donor.

The treatment was originally developed to prevent women with debilitating or even fatal mitochondrial diseases from passing them on to their children. Women who carry the DNA mutation can suffer multiple miscarriages, and a child with the same genetic fault may suffer greatly. Many do not survive beyond early childhood. The technique was made legal in the UK in 2015, but so far, no other country has introduced laws to permit the technique.

In the USA, mitochondrial donation was first performed successfully in 1996, but there remains concern as to whether mitochondrial replacement IVF might lead to widespread genetic engineering. According to the United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation in Pittsburgh, between 1000 and 4000 children are born with mitochondrial disorders in the USA each year.

The doctors behind this latest treatment say that the 32-year old mother had previously undergone four unsuccessful rounds of IVF. They claim that mitochondria also play a role in successful pregnancy and suggest that the technique could be applied more broadly as a fertility treatment.

Spanish embryologist Nuno Costa-Borges who collaborated with the Institute of Life clinic in Greece, where the treatment took place, said it could help countless women become mothers and described it as a revolution in fertility treatment.

However, a spokeswoman for the UK Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, said: “There is limited evidence on risks and success rates, and it should only be used cautiously in cases where alternative treatments would be of little or no benefit”.

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