Health

United Kingdom grants first three person baby licence to doctors

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An unnamed woman will undergo mitochondrial replacement therapy treatment at the Newcastle Fertility at Life clinic

The license granted to Newcastle University relates only to the clinic's capacity to perform the techniques, Britain's fertility regulator said.

Last year, USA -based doctors announced they had created the world's first baby using such techniques, after traveling to Mexico to perform the methods, which have not been approved in the United States.

A woman, who has not been named, is to undergo mitochondrial replacement therapy (MRT) treatment on Tyneside.

Mitochondrial disease is caused by defective mitochondria- the tiny structures in almost every cell that convert food into useable energy.

The idea of "three-parent" babies aren't new, but the big step to turn research into reality didn't happen until recently. The DNA from the donor amounts to less than 1 percent of the resulting embryo's genes.

Approval for the first treatment was announced by the HFEA's chairwoman Sally Cheshire at the regulator's annual meeting taking place in London.

"The treatment for this patient, whose details I can not discuss, has been given the go ahead".

When the United Kingdom gave the green light to the technique, the independent watchdog Human Genetics Alert claimed it was "the first step in a well mapped-out process leading to [genetically modified] babies, and a future of consumer eugenics".

Tampering with "germline" inherited DNA is normally illegal but MRT has been made an exception.

Professor Doug Turnbull, head of Newcastle's Wellcome Centre for Mitochondrial Research, anticipates the university's clinic could help 25 couples every year. During this procedure, scientists harvest the nucleus and DNA from the mother's egg and implant it in the donor egg, which is then fertilized and implanted through IVF.

Two different techniques may be employed, either before or after fertilisation.

It is controversial because it would result in babies born with the DNA of three people - and effectively, two mothers.

This mitochondrial DNA is inherited only from the mother through her eggs.

The results can be catastrophic if But when mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) goes wrong leading to a wide range of potentially fatal conditions affecting vital organs, muscles, vision, growth and mental ability.

In theory, mitochondrial replacement cannot only prevent a child developing inherited diseases, but also protect future generations.

In Britain, leaders disagreed heatedly on the issue while it was up for debate in the House of Commons, with some raising concerns about "designer babies" and "playing God".

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