We wrote about the UK considering three-parent IVF treatment a while back. This revolutionary new medical procedure has become known as "three-parent IVF" because the resulting children would carry DNA from three different individuals the mother, father, and an additional female donor in order to avoid passing on serious genetically inherited diseases. The new treatment could prevent mitochondrial diseases, which can result in fatal heart problems, liver failure, brain problems, weak muscle tone, and other complications. But the United Kingdom's fertility regulation agency decided that it is not yet time to bring this possibility into practice, and that further studies would be required.
The Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority (HFEA) is responsible for regulating infertility treatment in the UK. Their expert panel got together and made the difficult decision that, although three-parent IVF is considered to be a safe option, there is still a lack of information and data and the treatment will not be allowed to turn into medical practice. Not just yet, anyway. The expert panel concluded that there is no evidence that the techniques are unsafe, and that they are optimistic about three-parent IVF for the future. But they added: "Nevertheless, these techniques are relatively novel, especially applied to human embryos, and with relatively few data to provide robust evidence on safety. The panel therefore urges that additional research be undertaken to provide further safety information and knowledge."
Mitochondrial disorders are relatively rare, but can be extremely serious. Thew new treatment swaps around female DNA chains to avoid passing on the genes that cause these disorders. It will be very interesting to see how the three-parent IVF techniques develop in the future and whether they will help couples have babies that do not carry the genes. Watch this space! We will bring you regular updates about any decisions made in regard to the treatment.