In a move praised by doctors and but feared by
critics who say the technique will lead to eugenic "designer
babies", the government said the new rules were aimed at preventing
transmission of a serious disease from mother to child and would be
subject to public scrutiny and parliament's approval.
The technique is known as three-parent in vitro fertilization (IVF)
because the offspring would have genes from a mother, a father and
from a female donor.
The British plans come as medical advisers in the United States
began a series of public hearings this week to consider whether
there is scientific justification for allowing human trials of the
The treatment, currently only at the research stage in laboratories
in Britain and the United States, would for the first time involve
implanting genetically modified embryos into women.
The process involves intervening in the fertilization process to
remove faulty mitochondrial DNA, which can cause inherited
conditions such as fatal heart problems, liver failure, brain
disorders, blindness and muscular dystrophy.
It is designed to help families with mitochondrial diseases -
incurable conditions passed down the maternal line that affect
around one in 6,500 children worldwide. Mitochondria act as tiny
energy-generating batteries inside cells.
UK AT THE FOREFRONT
Announcing draft plans to allow the technique and launching a public
consultation on them, Britain's chief medical officer Sally Davies
said the proposed move would give women who carry severe
mitochondrial disease the chance to have children without passing on
devastating genetic disorders.
"It would also keep the UK in the forefront of scientific
development in this area," she said in a statement.
Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust international medical
charity, said he was pleased at the decision and urged the
government to "move swiftly so that parliament can debate the
regulations at the earliest opportunity and families affected by
these devastating disorders can begin to benefit".
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Scientists are researching several three-parent IVF techniques.
One being developed at Britain's Newcastle University, known as
pronuclear transfer, swaps DNA between two fertilized human eggs.
Another, called maternal spindle transfer, swaps material between
the mother's egg and a donor egg before fertilization.
A British medical ethics panel which reviewed the potential new
treatments in 2012 decided they were ethical and should go ahead as
long as research shows they are likely to be safe and effective.
Because Britain is in the vanguard of this research, ethical
concerns, political decisions and scientific advances here are
closely watched around the world - particularly in the United
Britain's public consultation on the draft regulations began on
Thursday and was scheduled to run until May 21, 2014.
(Reporting by Kate Kelland; editing by
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