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Dublin: 7 °C Tuesday 19 March, 2019
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UK government clears plans to allow 'babies with three parents'

The Department of Health has signed off on an IVF technique which will see defective genetic material replaced by others.

Amy Huberman in her TV comedy 'Threesome': the British government has approved plans which will allow parents to substitute defective material from a mother's egg with spare parts taken from another donor's egg.
Amy Huberman in her TV comedy 'Threesome': the British government has approved plans which will allow parents to substitute defective material from a mother's egg with spare parts taken from another donor's egg.
Image: Comedy Central UK

BABIES WITH THREE genetic parents could become a reality within the next few years, after the British government’s landmark decision to allow a pioneering IVF treatment which takes genetic material from three adults.

The Department of Health has approved a technique where defective genetic material from a mother’s egg can be substituted with material from another donor egg, taken from a second ‘mother’.

This egg – containing material from two women – would then be fertilised with sperm from a third parent, the biological father, to lead to a pregnancy which could lead to a child being born without inheriting the genetic problems that they would otherwise have taken from their birth mother.

As BBC News explains, the scheme concerns mitochondria – tiny particles within human cells which are used to generate chemical energy.

These are always passed to a child via their mother – but the eggs of a small number of women contain defective material which result in their children suffering from mitochondrial disorders which can include diabetes, deafness, chronic visual loss, intestinal disease and epilepsy.

British authorities say over 6,500 babies are born with mitochondrial disorder every year, though only around 12,000 people in the UK currently live with such conditions, as most affected children sadly die at an extremely young age.

Britain is the first country to sign off on the plan, after researchers at the University of Newcastle released details of their progress in the area last year.

The new scheme would see another woman offer a donor egg from which substitute mitochondria would be taken. These include small portions of their own genetic material – meaning the resulting child will inherit a small amount of genetic characteristics from the donor mother as well as their own biological parents.

The regulations are likely to affect only a small number of children, saving around 10 lives a year.

Read: ‘Babies with three parents’ may only be three years away

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Gavan Reilly

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