Magazine article The Christian Century

England Debates Legalizing in Vitro Technique Giving Baby DNA of Three Parents

Magazine article The Christian Century

England Debates Legalizing in Vitro Technique Giving Baby DNA of Three Parents

Article excerpt

England could become the first country to allow the creation of human embryos from the DNA of three people to try to eradicate a type of genetic disease that has caused the deaths of thousands of babies.

"This is world-leading science within a highly respected regulatory regime, and for the many families affected, this is light at the end of a very dark tunnel," said Jane Ellison, health minister.

Prime Minister David Cameron voted in favor of the technique when members of Parliament approved it February 3, which has provoked fierce ethical debate in Britain and elsewhere. Senior church figures called for the procedure to be blocked.

But with approval from the House of Lords, Britain's upper chamber, which is expected, the first three-person baby could be born as soon as next year.

The technique could help women in England who have lost babies to mitochondrial disease.

Mitochondria are tiny compartments inside nearly every cell of the body that convert food into usable energy. They have their own DNA which does not affect characteristics such as appearance.

Defective mitochondria is a condition that is passed down only from the mother and leads to brain damage, muscle wasting, heart failure, and blindness. The controversial new technique uses a modified version of in vitro fertilization--the process by which eggs are removed from ovaries and mixed with sperm in a laboratory dish--to combine the DNA of the two parents with the healthy mitochondria of a donor woman. …

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