On Tuesday, British MPs voted a bill that would legalize a controversial genetic technique that allows a baby to carry the DNA of three parents, in an attempt to prevent the inheritance of a serious genetic disease. If it gets past the House of Lords, the law would make Britain the first country in the world to allow genetic engineered babies.
Critics linked the procedure to genetic modification, which could open up an abyssal Pandora Box that may lead to unprecedented experiments such as designer babies. Both the Catholic and Anglican churches opposed the bill mainly because in the process human embryos are lost.
The new technique, dubbed IVF, is an in vitro fertilization method which genetically alters the human egg before transferring it into its mother’s womb. Lawmakers and promoters vowed that the new technique would get used only on rare occasions, when a woman can pass down to her offsprings mitochondrial diseases.
Scientists explained that the IVF embryos would have nuclear DNA from the biological parents, but mitochondrial DNA from a female donor. However, other researchers warned that the approval of such procedure will be a “historic mistake”.
Jane Ellison, current British health minister, praised the legislative move calling it “bold” but “considered and informed” since a faulty mitochondria can result in a series of diseases, such as heart, liver and kidney failure, or muscular dystrophy.
David Cameron, the Prime Minister of the U.K. and leader of the Conservative Party, also backed the bill. He told press he was supporting the technique because he too was the parent of a severely disabled child and wanted to give parents the chance of having “a healthy and happy baby.”
As someone who has had the experience of having a severely disabled child I have every sympathy with those parents. This is something that can be done and something from all the research and evidence is not playing god with nature, this is much more like a kidney donation or a lung donation rather than some sort of fundamental change that’s being made,”
Mr. Cameron added.
Edward Leigh, former minister and member of the Conservative party criticized the move of the British Parliament. He said that there may be no turning back if the bill passes, and no one could ever tell what limits it should have. He also urged that full clinical trials should be conducted to see the procedure’s safety and effectiveness.
We will be the first state to authorize this in the world. We will be in a unique position, and we should ask ourselves why no other state — not the European Union, not the U.S., yet — thinks this process is absolutely safe,”
Mr. Leigh argued.
If the bill passes, it will become law in October, and the first babies with 3 genetic parents would get born next year.
Image Source: Medimanage