Health & Food
DNA from 3 people to create embryos in United Kingdom?
LONDON (KABC) -- A controversial technique to create embryos using DNA from three people may soon be allowed in Britain.
The technique was created to help women prevent birth defects from being passed on to their babies. It's intended to bypass faulty mitochondria, the energy source in cells. Muscular dystrophy, epilepsy, heart problems and mental retardation can result from faulty mitochondria from a mother.
Approximately one in 200 children born in Britain each year has a mitochondrial disorder.
For a woman with faulty mitochondria, scientists take only the healthy genetic material from her egg or embryo. They then transfer that into a donor egg or embryo that still has its healthy mitochondria but has had the rest of its key DNA removed. The fertilized embryo is then transferred into the womb of the mother.
"Scientists have developed ground-breaking new procedures which could stop these diseases being passed on," Britain's chief medical officer, Dr. Sally Davies, said in a statement on Friday. "It's only right that we look to introduce this life-saving treatment as soon as we can."
Similar research is going on in the U.S., where the embryos are not being used to produce children.
British law forbids altering a human egg or an embryo before transferring it into a woman, so such treatments are currently only allowed for research. The government says it plans to publish draft guidelines later this year before introducing a final version to be debated in the U.K. Parliament next year. Politicians would need to approve the use of the new techniques before patients could be treated.
Some groups oppose artificial reproduction techniques and believe the destruction of eggs or embryos to be immoral. British tabloids jumped on the procedure when it was first announced in 2008 and labeled it the creation of a three-parent baby - the mother, the donor and the father - a charge scientists claim is inaccurate because the amount of DNA from the donor egg is insignificant.
If British lawmakers agree, the U.K. would become the first country in the world where the technique could be used to create babies. Experts say the procedures would likely only be used in about a dozen women every year.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
medical research, health & food
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