Three-Person-Babies Approved in the UK

Wednesday 25th February 2015

Britain has become the world’s first country to approve laws that allow three people to create a baby.

This adapted version of IVF has passed its last legislative obstacle having being approved by the House of Lords.

The fertility regulator must now make a decision how to license the procedure to prevent babies from inheriting life-threatening genetic diseases. It is said that the first baby could be born as early as next year.

The notion of “three-person-babies” was approved by a large majority of MPs in the House of Commons earlier this month.

Last night, the House of Lords rejected an effort to block the plan by a majority of 232.

The technique was developed in Newcastle and uses an altered version of IVF to combine the healthy mitochondria of a female donor with the DNA of two parents.

This will result in a baby with 0.1 percent of their DNA from the donor, an enduring change that would be passed down through the generations.

Mitochondria are found inside almost every cell in the body, and convert food into energy. However, genetic defects in the mitochondria mean that there is insufficient energy in the body to keep the brain functioning or the heart beating. The structures are passed down from the mother only, and contain their own DNA. However, it does not alter traits such as personality or physical appearance.

During the debate, health minister Lord Howe expressed that there is an opportunity to provide “real hope” to families. He said that the UK is leading the rest of the world and that safety reviews from three experts have suggested the procedure would be safe.

He articulated to the House that families are able to see that the technology is available to help them and will be enthusiastic about taking it up. He believes that it would be diverse and cruel to deny them the opportunity for any longer than necessary.

Former government minister John Gummer argued that there were doubts regarding safety. He also expressed concerns about the legality of creating babies through this method under European law.

Lawford Davies Denoon specialises in life sciences. James Lawford Davies, a lawyer from the firm, told reporters that ant legal arguments are hopeless in opposition to the regulations. He says that they do not breach the Clinical Trials Directive, which only applies to medicinal products. There is also no breach of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms, which disallows the practice of reproductive cloning and forced sterilisation.

Human Genetics Alert, among other groups, feel that the move would pave the way for further genetic modification of children in years to come, for example genetically modified designer babies.

It is estimated that 150 couples would be suitable to have babies through the technique every year. If the measure is to go ahead, the first three-person-baby could be born in 2016.