Preventing Genetic Diseases

Elucidating the UK’s ‘three-parent baby’ law


Steps towards repairing an embryo.

Yadira Vico, Managing Editor

“One in 6,500 babies in the United Kingdom are thought to develop a serious mitochondrial disorder, which can lead to health issues such as heart and liver disease, respiratory problems, blindness and muscular dystrophy,” said CNN News.

The UK is in the process of passing a law that allows the conception of babies by three people. The purpose of this law is to allow women, with mitochondrial diseases, to have a baby without passing on the disease to their child.

According to BBC News, there are two methods in which the transfer can be done.

One procedure starts by taking two eggs, one from the original mother and one from the donor, and inserting the father’s sperm into both of them. This creates an embryo from the intended parents and the donor. The pronuclei (haploid nucleus of a male or female gamete) from both embryos are then removed — the parents’ pronuclei is kept while the donors’ pronuclei is destroyed. To finalize the process, a healthy embryo — the parents’ pronuclei inserted into the donor’s egg — is implanted into the mother’s womb.

The second procedure is done by collecting an egg from both the mother and donor, and removing most of the genetic material. The mother’s genetic material is then implanted into the donor’s egg, which is fertilized by the father’s sperm.

Since the womb is implanted with the donor’s egg, the child will inherit some of the donor’s DNA, causing it to have three biological parents. “The amount of donor DNA in the mitochondria will, however, be much less than the parental DNA in the nucleus, which determines the baby’s characteristics,” said CNN News.

Although this may sound like a good idea, not everyone agrees with this procedure. “There are also serious ethical objections to this procedure, which involves the destruction of human embryos as part of the process,” said Bishop John Sherrington.

“The Church of England argued that there should be ‘more time for consultation and research,’ while adding that the church did not want to prevent people ‘from benefiting from a major advance in genetics and assisted reproduction,’” said The New York Times.