An approval from the House of Lords to allow IVF babies to be born with the DNA of three people – the child’s father, mother and another woman – is imminent after the House of Commons voted yes.
The procedure’s aim is to help avoid serious genetic diseases which normally reduce life expectancy to be passed onto the baby, scientists say. However, the Anglican and Catholic churches oppose this procedure, questioning it on safety and ethical reasons.
In a historic move, the UK is now set to become the first country in the world to have babies with DNA from two women and one man. The free vote, which took place in the Commons earlier this month, saw 382 MPs say yes whilst 128 decided against the technique.
‘A bold step’
Speaking in the Commons debate, Public Health Minister Jane Ellison concluded that “This is a bold step for parliament to take but an informed one”, as ministers also said that the yes vote for this procedure is “light at the end of a dark tunnel” for families.
England’s chief police officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies says the benefits outweigh any concerns. “Families want this. I suppose the question is why should we allow these families to still suffer when we have it in our hands to do otherwise?”
The procedure, which still requires a further vote in the House of Lords, is predicted to help almost 200 couples a year.
First developed in Newcastle, the technique prevents couples from passing on diseases to the mitochondria that power our cells, which when faulty can cause brain damage, heart failure, blindness and muscle wasting.
The procedure uses a modified version of IVF to combine the DNA of the two parents with the healthy mitochondria of a donor woman.
Whilst there have been some reviews from Nuffield Council on Bioethics dismissing the safety concerns, some scientists argue that those reviews are inconsistent. Dr Ted Morrow from the University of Sussex thinks there are still uncertainties.
“I have some concerns about the safety. I’m really not happy that the reviews have been as exemplary as other people think they are,” he said.
Countering him, Professor Lisa Jardine – ex chair of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) – said, “The scientific committees have said there is no evidence this procedure is unsafe, but like all good scientists, they say it will require ‘careful’ progress.”
If the Lords go ahead with a yes vote, then the HFEA is expected to give Newcastle a licence to carry out the procedure.
The first attempt could take place this year which means the first historic three-parent birth would be in 2016.
TNT News Yasin Chinembiri