Friday, 22 March 2013

Three Parent Embryo?

In reports this week, scientists are waiting for the go-ahead to use the DNA from three people to create embryos for families at risk of incurable genetic diseases.

If allowed, the UK would be the first country in the world to allow this and public opinion seems to support this form of IVF (see here).

The treatment is very controversial on several grounds. Firstly the genetic modifications in the embryo pass down to all future generations, it is hard to predict what this may mean. Secondly, the techniques have never been tried in humans, but have worked in animal studies. However perhaps most importantly it raises ethical questions on parentage of the embryos and rights in this area - who exactly are the parents?

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority recommend that women who donated eggs for the treatments should be regarded as tissue donors, and therefore the child would not have a right to know the donor's identity. However would this law be upheld in the future?

The Guardian points out the reason for this treatment:

"About one in 6,000 people is born with a disease caused by genetic glitches in their mitochondria, the biological batteries that power the cells in our bodies. Mitochondria are inherited only from mothers and contain just 37 genes, held separately to the 23,000 genes that shape our appearance and define much of who we are."

What do you think? Do you think it is worth trying this technique in order to improve the lives of 6,000 babies born each year? What other ethical and moral issues can you see with this? What are the other dangers?

Read more here:

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