Consultation on the controversial procedure begins amid outcry against ‘macabre’ practice
January 20, 2012
The controversial technique known as “three-parent IVF” came a step closer yesterday after the Department of Health asked the fertility regulator to conduct a public consultation into its acceptability.
At the same time the Wellcome Trust announced extra funds to expand research into the technique, which involves using genetic material from three parents – two women and a man – to create a baby.
The procedure, currently banned in the UK, is aimed at helping the estimated 12,000 people who are living with mitochondrial disease – defects in the small structures called mitochondria that surround the cell nucleus.
The disease is inherited but is only passed down the maternal line. About 100 babies are born each year with a severe form of the disease, for which there is no cure, with many dying in infancy.
The proposed procedure involves removing the nucleus from an affected woman’s egg, transferring it to the shell of an egg provided by a female donor who has healthy mitochondria, and then fertilising it with the sperm of the affected woman’s partner. The resulting baby would have genetic characteristics chiefly from its mother and father plus some from the mitochondria of its third parent, who provided the donor egg.
An alternative method involves fertilising the woman’s egg with her partner’s sperm before transfer into the donor egg.
Announcing the consultation, Public Health Minister Anne Milton said: “Mitochondrial disease… can have a devastating impact on the people who inherit it. Scientists have developed a new procedure to stop these diseases being passed on. But such a procedure would not be allowed… under current law, so we are consulting the public as to whether we should change the law.