The United Kingdom has become the first country in the world to license three-parent baby fertility treatment.
IVF Treatment For Babies Born To Three Parents
The Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority, UK's fertility regulator, greenlighted the treatment called mitochondrial transfer that doctors say could help prevent the occurrence of incurable hereditary diseases.
The process is also known as three-parent IVF because it involves producing babies from genetically modified embryos with DNA coming from a father, a mother, and a female donor.
The technique involves intervening in the fertilization process to remove the mitochondria, the powerhouse of the cells. Faulty mitochondria can cause a range of unwanted conditions.
Mitochondrial disease is an inherited chronic illness that can already be present at birth or may develop later in life. The condition is progressive and currently has no cure. It can lead to poor vision, seizures, developmental delays, muscle wasting, and diabetes. About 125 babies in Britain are born with the mutations each year.
"Mitochondrial donation offers a real opportunity to cure a class of potentially devastating inherited conditions and will bring hope to hundreds of affected families in the UK," said Dagan Wells from Oxford University, who was among the experts who welcomed the decision hailed for its potential impact on people who live with mitochondrial disease.
Britain To Welcome Three-Parent Babies In 2017
HFEA's decision, which was announced on Thursday, Dec. 15, means that the first sets of three-parent babies in Britain could be born as early as next year.
Doug Turnbull, the director of the Wellcome Center for Mitochondrial Research at Newcastle University, said that they would be aiming to treat up to 25 patients annually using the mitochondrial donation technique.
Researchers from around the world have already conducted tests and trials through preclinical experiments but the technique has not yet been used to treat anyone in Britain.
"It is infinitely preferable that the early clinical trials should be done in a tightly regulated system in the UK, with long term follow-up of any children born, rather than in countries where there is no regulation or oversight," said Frances Flinter, clinical genetics professor at Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust.
The first known mitochondrial baby was born this year from a Jordanian couple who conceived using the new treatment with the help of U.S. doctors who worked at a clinic in Mexico.