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Three-parent babies:Opening the door for designer children?

2015-02-03_1327On February 3rd, 2015, the British government passed a bill to allow a in-vitro conception method using three parents. This proved to be highly controversial.

The reason for this move is that some women carry defective genes which can cause horrendous health problems in their children.

Mitochondria are tiny compartments that exist in almost every cell in the human body.Their purpose is to convert food into energy. If these are defective – and these are passed down via a child’s mother – they can cause a host of sometimes deadly defects.

The BBC speaks of one woman who has lost all seven of her children because of defective mitochondria. It’s hardly possible to imagine her heartbreak. THe problem was finally discovered and her story lead the way towards creating research and a solution.

The in-vitro technique, to put it simply, replaces the defective gene from the embryo and replaces it with one from a woman whose genes do not pass on the disease. It does not affect other genetic issues, such as the look of the child, and the child will only have 0.1% of the donor’s DNA.

This decision by the British government is creating a huge amount of debate. Is this, people are saying, the first stage of allowing parents to create ‘designer babies’?

Others worry about following generations. The researchers who have developed this method say that it is a final cure for the problem. The defective gene will bot be present in the baby so when she reaches adulthood and has children, she cannot pass it on. But some people are worried that there might be other side effects because of the DNA cocktail.

What do you think?

Tricky, isn’t it? On one level, I’m inclined to believe that it’s really no different than blood transfusions or transplanted organs. On another, is it really ethical?

ButI think that in general, a move that means healthier babies and therefore a healthier population must be a good thing?

Children born to women with the deficient gene are unlikely to survive. Those who do, may only do so to young adulthood and during their lives will be beset by health problems. Some people have mild mitochondrial disease and not be aware of it until it starts to affect them in later life. It has been linked with Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, heart problems, diabetes and cancer.

This isn’t just a case of allowing infertile couples to have children,unlike other in-vitro techniques.

And what if it was discovered that this method could wipe out cancer? Would we feel differently then?



Jackie Jackson, also known online as BritFlorida, is a highly experienced designer and writer. British born and now living in the USA, she specialises in lifestyle issues, design and quirky stories. You can see a wide range of articles here, or visit her website Tastes Magazine. See The Writer’s Door for more information.

Author: Jackie Jackson

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1 Comment

  1. It’s always interesting to look at both sides of an issue, isn’t it? While we can wish for a solution for the woman who lost so many children, we often don’t consider the negatives.

    The same for cancer. If we knew something like this could have such positive effects, would it overcome the down side? It would seem like the down side would lead to designer babies. Not sure what else. But humans do tend to go to extremes, some for good and others for bad.

    Then there is the question of interfering with God’s creation. Is this knowledge a gift from him or are playing god?

    I sure don’t have an answer, but your article makes me consider.

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