Britain will soon become the first country in the world to allow the creation of babies with DNA from three people, after laws allowing the controversial procedure were passed through parliament.
But while opponents of the procedure are warning about the perils of creating a generation of ‘designer babies’ and the moral implications of having three parents, those in favour say it will not change the traditional family structure – but it will save countless lives.
About 2,500 women in Britain are at risk of passing on to their babies faulty mitochondria, the genetic material around a cell’s nucleus.
Mitochondrial DNA (mDNA) is passed through the mother and mitochondrial diseases cause symptoms ranging from poor vision to diabetes and muscle wasting.
By passing the new legislation, British MPs have voted to legalise a technique that could prevent serious inherited diseases being passed on from mother to child.
Politicians in the House of Commons voted by 382 to 128 in favour of legalizing the technique, which involves allowing IVF babies to be created with DNA from three people.
As well as receiving the usual ‘nuclear’ DNA from its mother and father, the embryo would also include a small amount of healthy female donor.
According to scientists a tiny fraction of the child’s DNA would come from the donor, none of which will determine characteristics or traits.
Despite some religious and ethical groups arguing that the ethics and morality of such a technique have not been adequately explored, the bill is expected to be passed by the House of Lords later this month, paving the way for the procedure to begin in the UK next year.