It is controversial due to fears over genetic engineering, but supporters claim only a tiny bit of DNA is change
Britain could become the first nation to allow babies to be born with three genetic parents, officials will announce today.
A landmark decision by the Department of Health opens the door to treatments for diseases that make use of donated DNA from a second donor “mum”.
New regulations to fertility law allowing the procedures will be issued for public consultation later this year and then debated in Parliament.
If MPs find them ethically acceptable the first patients could be treated within months.
Around 10 “three parent” babies could be born every year.
Allowing the currently illegal techniques would mark a turning point because it means altering the “germ line” made up of inherited DNA.
Experts say only the tiny amount of DNA in a cell’s “battery packs” – the mitochondria – would be changed.
DNA in the nucleus, which determines individual characteristics such as facial features and eye colour, would remain intact.
One in every 200 babies born each year in Britain has defects in the mitochondria.
One in 6,500 is seriously affected and can suffer potentially life-threatening diseases including muscular dystrophy and conditions leading to hearing and vision loss, heart, lung and liver problems, and bowel disorders.
The new techniques result in defective mitochondrial DNA (mDNA) being replaced by a healthy version supplied by a female donor – the second donor “mum”.
Draft regulations making the UK the first country in the world to offer the treatments to women with a family history of mitochondrial disease will be published later this year, the Department of Health will announce.
Chief medical officer Professor Dame Sally Davies said: “Scientists have developed ground-breaking new procedures which could stop these diseases being passed on, bringing hope to many families seeking to prevent their future children inheriting them.
“It’s only right that we look to introduce this life-saving treatment as soon as we can.”
Dame Sally added: “There are clearly some sensitive issues here, but…it’s clear there is general support to allow these treatments subject to strict safeguards. So what we’re going to do is move forward.”
She said the outright ban on changing nuclear DNA would remain in place and there was no likelihood of that position changing “in the foreseeable future”.
The move is controversial due to fears over genetic engineering, but supporters claim only a tiny bit of DNA would be changed.Tags: nhs