Britain took a step toward allowing three-parent babies Friday when ministers OK'd an IVF procedure that would use the DNA from three people in order to prevent genetic disorders.
The proposed treatment, which would still require Parliament's approval, would replace a mother's damaged DNA with that of a healthy donor and prevent the passing down of inherited mitochondrial defects, The Telegraph reported.
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"Mitochondrial disease, including heart disease, liver disease, loss of muscle coordination, and other serious conditions like muscular dystrophy, can have a devastating impact on the people who inherit it," professor Dame Sally Davies, U.K.'s chief medical officer, told CNN.
But the procedure is drawing criticism from people who think it's too controversial. They argue that it is unethical because it involves "germ line" modification of an embryo's DNA, meaning that the third donor's genetic material would not only be passed down to the child, but also to future generations, according to The Telegraph.
Others claim such a procedure would open the floodgates for "designer babies."
"These techniques are unnecessary and unsafe and were in fact rejected by the majority of consultation responses," Dr. David King, director of the watchdog group Human Genetic Alert, said in a statement. "It is a disaster that the decision to cross the line that will eventually lead to a eugenic designer baby market should be taken on the basis of an utterly biased and inadequate consultation."
Experts cautioned the British government to fully research the three-parent IVF procedure and not to rush to get it signed into law.
"Little is known about the short- and long-term genetic effects of this procedure on children born with its aid," University of Notre Dame law professor O. Carter Snead, a bioethicist who specializes in the governance of science, medicine, and biotechnology, told CNN. "It would be an ironic tragedy if this procedure were rushed from bench to bedside, only to harm the very children it was meant to help."
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