The first baby with DNA from three parents could be born in Britain next year as the procedure has been given approval.
Last week the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) decided it would allow fertility clinics in the UK to apply for permission to offer mitochondrial replacement therapy (MRT) – a treatment designed to help women who are carriers of serious hereditary diseases to have healthy children.
The Newcastle Fertility Centre now plans to apply for a licence to offer the procedure as soon as HFEA start accepting applications. This could mean the first patient could potentially start treatment as soon as spring next year.
Mary Herbert, Newcastle Fertility Centre’s professor of reproductive biology, told The Guardian: “This is a huge triumph for the research, for the regulatory process in the UK, and most importantly for all the families who are affected. We have everything ready to go.”
MRT will benefit women who have mutations in their mitochondrial DNA, which could lead to their children having severe health problems or disabilities. At the moment, mitochondrial disease affects around one in every 10,000 babies and many of these infants have a low life expectancy due to issues with their heart, brain and other organs and tissues.
Treatment will help parents with hereditary diseases
HFEA chair Sally Cheshire said: “(The HFEA’s) historic decision means that parents at very high risk of having a child with a life-threatening mitochondrial disease may soon have the chance of a healthy, genetically-related child. This is life-changing for those families.”
The procedure will involve removing the mutated mitochondria from the egg of the mother and replacing it with healthy material from a donor. The baby’s 46 chromosomes will still come from its mother and father as only the mitochondria will be affected.
The first baby in the world to be born with this technique was born in April this year after the treatment was carried out at a clinic in Mexico. The boy, who is now eight months, appears to be healthy and has no sign of the inherited disease carried by his mother.
The fertility clinic is now planning to carry out more treatments of this kind and hopes to create 20 three-parent babies in 2017.
Concerns have been raised about the treatment as it would result in a child having DNA from three people. However, most of the baby’s genetic material would come from its mother and father and the donor would have no claim on the child.
It could have implications for the reliability of DNA testing for people who are conceived in this way. Maternity testing looks at mitochondrial DNA to determine the identity of someone’s biological mother but these tests tend to only be used in situations where someone has been adopted or separated from their mother and there are some doubts over the relationship.