Babies with three parents a possibility

Jan. 20, 2012 at 2:40 PM

LONDON, Jan. 20 (UPI) -- Babies with three biological parents could be born with an in vitro fertilization technique meant to eliminate hereditary diseases, British researchers say.

Such a baby would inherit its identity from its true mother and father but also would possess some DNA from a donor egg, the researchers said.

Researchers have received $9 million in funding to develop the procedure that could prevent genetic conditions from being passed on to children, The Daily Telegraph reported Friday.

The research has generated controversy because it involves transferring the parents' DNA into a donor egg, with the result that the child would inherit a tiny fraction of genetic coding from a third party.

Current law bans the implantation of such eggs into patients.

The research is aimed at tackling inherited diseases in families caused by mutated mitochondrial DNA passed down only by the mother.

Although 99.8 per cent of our DNA is inherited evenly from our father and mother and stored in the nucleus of cells, a tiny fraction resides outside the nucleus in the mitochondria and is passed down only by the mother.

The technique involves taking an egg from the mother and another from a donor and removing the nucleus from the donor's egg, replacing it with the nucleus from the mother.

This means the child would take mitochondrial DNA from the donor but the remaining inherited DNA would be from the mother and father.

Britain's Department of Health has scheduled a public hearing on whether the technology should be moved from the lab to patients.

Mark Walport, head of the Wellcome Trust, which is providing some of the research funding, said the genetic impact of inheriting a third person's mitochondrial DNA would be minimal.

"We welcome the opportunity to discuss with the public why we believe this technique is essential if we are to give families affected by these diseases the chance to have healthy children, something most of us take for granted," he said.

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