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Britain: DNA technique using 'three-parent' DNA progressing

June 28, 2013 at 1:05 AM   |   Comments

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LONDON, June 28 (UPI) -- Britain's chief medical officer said at a London briefing mitochondrial transfer -- parental DNA injected into a donor egg -- is moving toward being approved.

Sally Davies, the chief medical officer, said it's only right to introduce this life-saving treatment as soon as possible, The Guardian reported.

Draft regulations are expected to be ready this autumn. If the House of Commons approve regulations expected to be debated in Parliament next year, Britain could be the first country to offer the new treatment, officials said.

Doctors could be able to apply for permission for the procedure before the end of 2014, health officials said.

However, the technique, which has worked in animals, has never been tested in humans. Davies said any babies born via the "three-parent" process must be followed up to ensure they are healthy.

Researchers at Newcastle University in England pioneered the procedure targeting diseases caused by faulty mitochondria -- the tiny power units inside cells. The mitochondria disorders tend to affect parts of the body that need the most energy, including the heart, brain and muscles -- around 1-in-6,500 people in Britain are born with a mitochondrial disorder, making the condition more common than childhood cancer, Davies said.

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority published a study last March, which suggested the public was generally supportive of the technology that involves using a snippet of DNA from a healthy female donor to prevent mothers from passing on devastating genetic disorders such as muscular dystrophy or heart conditions.

However, some groups oppose the procedure because one approach involves the destruction of invitro fertilization embryos. The technique also crosses a line in medicine because it makes genetic modifications to an embryo that will pass down to all future generations, which raises the risk of unforeseen complications affecting generations to come, The Guardian said.

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