Possibility of human embryo with three parents examined


Technology is making all efforts to ‘create’ healthy babies. From animals to humans, more discoveries are coming out in the open. Even in the formation of a human being, science is intervening to prevent deformities in fetuses. To remedy thousands of hereditary diseases that are transmitted to new borns, British scientists are looking into the possibility of creating a human embryo with three parents as a mean to correct genetic deformities within five years.

Newcastle researchers in northern England used in vitro fertilization (IVF) or test tube embryos from a male and two other females using a combined DNA and their findings were recently presented at a medical conference in Medical Research Council Centre for Neuromuscular Diseases conference in London.

As a way to prevent mothers from passing possible genetic defects and diseases on to their offspring, this experiment was conducted as mitochondrial DNA deformities responsible for diseases can be eliminated. According to statistics, one in every 5,000 or 0.02 percent of the population of babies being born in the world may suffer from mitochondrial diseases in the form of diseases like liver, kidney, heart or brain disorders. Others suffer from speech and hearing impairment or muscular defects or some form of epilepsy.

If this study is successful, scientists believe that this will help in providing better techniques in preventing diseases in new born babies in three to five years from now.

Mitochondria are essential since they are the source of energy in the body cells. If they are faulty, they will not be able to use food and oxygen well in the body. As this happens, toxins may build up and later lead to numerous deadly diseases. Researchers said such instances can be prevented if the embryos with problems are given sufficient attention through mitochondrial transplant. This is done through IVF and removal of the egg’s nucleus. The removed DNA can be replaced by a healthy DNA from the donor egg.

In the normal setting, the fetus receives nuclear DNA or genes from his biological parents. But with the use mitochondrial DNA, it comes from a third party. This study is still in its preliminary stages and will be subject to a series of tests. But critics are opposing the idea for possible creation of designer babies that might have other problems in the long run. And medical sciences have to deal with the question of ‘ethics’ when ‘engineering’ an embryo.

Source: Reuters Health

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