In "three-parent IVF", genetic material is used from two women and one man. Debates about how ethical this practice is, and whether it's acceptable to apply it in practice to prevent children from life-threatening mitochondrial diseases, have been going on for quite a while now, especially in the UK. Various government agencies have discussed three-parent IVF, but the concept hasn't been approved so far. A new report from the UK's Nuffield Council on Bioethics says that the technique, in which "diseased" mitochondrial DNA is replaced by healthy DNA from another woman by using her egg "shell". The inner part of the egg would still contain genetic material from the intended mother , as well as the biological father. Hence, three-parent IVF.
More than 6,000 children are born with so-called mitochondrial disorder every year in Great Britain. This disorder can cause muscle weakness, blindness, and heart failure. Since mitochondria, which make up 0.1 percent of a person's genetic information, only come from the mother, altering the father's genetics is not necessary. Mitochondrial DNA is essential for the functioning of cells, but it doesn't affect a child's appearance and characteristics. Prof Peter Braude, from King's College London, put it simply: "The net effect is an embryo that carries the true parents characteristics in a clean egg with healthy mitochondria." Dr Geoff Watts, who led the inquiry, explained the council's view on three-parent IVF: "If further research shows these techniques to be sufficiently safe and effective, we think it would be ethical for families to use them if they wished to, provided they receive an appropriate level of information and support.
They could offer significant health and social benefits to individuals and families, who could potentially live their lives free from what can be very severe and debilitating disorders." Other doctors weren't so optimistic, and said introducing three-parent IVF as a fertility treatment would be a slippery slope. One even pointed out that Frankenstein, too, was put together with lots of different people's body parts and though the intentions may be good, the results could be disastrous. What are your thoughts on three-parent IVF? Would you like to see this technique come into use, or are you afraid what would happen in the longer term?