Lawmakers in Britain will vote on Tuesday whether or not to allow scientists to create a baby using the DNA of three people. The technique is controversial but could prevent children from inheriting deadly genetic diseases. Britain would be the first country in the world that allowed genetically modified embryos.
The techniques — which aim to prevent mothers from passing on inherited diseases — involve altering a human egg or embryo before transferring it into the mother. British law currently forbids any modification of embryos before they are transferred into a woman.
The government has already published rules about how the technique can be used. Dr. Sally Davies, the U.K’s chief medical officer ,wants to see the technique legalized “to give women who carry severe mitochondrial disease the opportunity to have children without passing on devastating genetic disorders.”
Obviously, the procedure has critics. They say that the genetic changes will be passed down from generation to generation and that an entire industry of “designer babies” could crop up.
“(This is) about protecting children from the severe health risks of these unnecessary techniques and protecting everyone from the eugenic designer baby future that will follow from this,” said David King, director of the secular watchdog group Human Genetics Alert.
The techniques, however would only be used in a handful of cases for women who have faulty mitochondria. “To fix that, scientists remove the nucleus DNA from the egg of a prospective mother and insert it into a donor egg, where the nucleus DNA has been removed. This can be done either before or after fertilization.”
The embryo that results would have the nucleus DNA from its parents but its mitochondrial DNA from a donor.
The U.S. is also considering this technique. The Food and Drug Administration met last year to discuss the possibility of its safety.