UK allows babies to be conceived from DNA of three ‘parents’

The United Kingdom became this Thursday, December 15 the first country to authorize the conception of babies from the DNA of three parents. Even if this decision has a purely therapeutic aim, it did not fail to create controversy across the Channel.

The British ethics committee gave its approval, the final condition. This time for sure, the UK will become the first country to allow the conception of children from three different DNAs. A therapeutic decision for an experimental technique which aims to combine the DNA of two women with that of a man so as not to transmit a maternal hereditary disease.

 » This is a landmark decision and I’m sure patients ready to benefit from this technique will be delighted. “Explains Sally Cheshire, President of the Regulatory Authority for medically assisted procreation and research in embryology (HFEA).  » It’s a cautious green light, not enthusiastic “, she still tempered on this decision which raises controversy in the United Kingdom and animates lively debates.

On the side of the defenders of this decision, it is estimated that it will allow the couples concerned (whose number is estimated at 3,000 in the United Kingdom) to give birth to healthier children. On the side of those who are against, it evokes a technique that is not yet mature enough and that goes too far in terms of genetic modification by « opening Pandora’s box » of the selection of babies.

 » I don’t think we’re going down a slippery slope. We relied on a panel of international experts who considered the technique sufficiently safe and effective. The process took five years. There was a great public debate. Four reports have been published. Parliament debated the issue and approved the technique by a majority of three to one. adds Sally Cheshire.

Now that it is officially validated, this technique will be used on around 25 couples initially with a first baby who could be born in a year, at the end of 2017.  » The following years, 200 couples could be concerned every year. Those from abroad are welcome », declares the president of HFEA.

It should be known that in Great Britain, approximately 125 babies are born each year with a mitochondrial dysfunction transmitted by the mother. As Le Point explains, mitochondria are small organelles (specialized structures) present in cells that transform glucose into an energy molecule. Defective, they cause an energy deficit for the body and are responsible for serious degenerative diseases such as diabetes or myopathy. »

This technique involves removing the defective mitochondria from the mother’s egg and replacing it with healthy mitochondria from another woman. The child that will be born will carry all the characteristics of the mother and the father since the DNA concerned, mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) represents less than 1% of the total quantity of DNA contained in a human cell.

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