It might sound like something out of a movie, but babies in Britain can now be born with a third biological parent.
On Tuesday, the country voted to become the first in the world to allow an IVF technique that uses DNA from both parents, along with an extra set from a female donor. That would mean the baby in question would be born with the genetic codes of three different people.
Once we explain why parents want to do this though, you’ll likely want the procedure brought to Canada.
The “three-parent” technique is used to remove faulty mitochondria (which act as energy centres for cells) from an embryo, and replace them with healthy versions that could remove the possibility of inheriting fatal mitochondrial diseases, which often take the form of heart problems, liver failure, brain disorders and blindness. The diseases are currently incurable and affect about one in 2,000 children in the U.S. alone.
But there is another side to this. The idea of genetically-modified humans is enough to make some people cringe, and critics are worried particularly about the notion of “designer babies” (children whose genetic codes are altered to be smarter, better looking, etc.). It is important to note, however, that the manipulation of mitochondrial DNA can’t affect human characteristics such as eye or hair colour, personality or overall appearance. So while that criticism seems to be satisfied, there are also concerns over the long-term consequences of mucking around with someone’s DNA.
“You alter the genetic code not just for that embryo, but for that embryo’s children,” Christian Concern Director Andrea Williams says in the video above. “For the person’s children, and their children’s children.”
In Canada, the procedure is still illegal (the legislation still has to make it through the House of Lords and a further Commons vote in Britain before becoming official, but it’s highly expected to do so). Many experts say if the idea is successful across the pond, there will likely be pressure to change the laws over here as well.
The world’s first baby containing the genetic matter of three different adults will likely be born next year. Check out the video above.