People affected by mitochondrial diseases welcome the decision, while criticism about "designer babies" vocally comes from some corners.
The three-parent IVF technique is currently still in its infancy, with research ongoing in labs in the United States and Great Britain. A public debate in Britain gave people from all professions a chance to voice their opinions on the technique. After it was found that Britons generally view the possibility as positive, the government's chief physician said that the IVF technique should now be able to turn into reality strictly regulated, of course.
What is three-parent IVF again, and what does it seek to eliminate?
Mitochondrial DNA is inherited only from mothers it is the outer part of an egg cell that creates it. An embyro's nucleus contains its genetic information, and mitochondrial DNA does not affect a person's appearance and other qualities. Meanwhile, mitochondria power cells and play an important role in the body. Faulty mitochondria result in hereditary diseases including fatal heart problems, muscular dystrophy, liver failure, blindness and neurological problems. Needless to say, every parent who is at risk of passing fault mitochondria that could destroy their child's quality of life or become fatal would welcome a solution.
Three-parent IVF could be that solution. By removing the mitochondrial portion of a fertilized embryo and replacing it with donor mitochondria, many children could be saved from having debilitating disorders. Sally Davies, chief medical officer, said to the press:
"Scientists have developed ground-breaking new procedures which could stop these diseases being passed on, bringing hope to many families seeking to prevent their children inheriting them."
But not everybody is happy with this move. Human Genetics Alert campaign group director David King described three-parent IVF as unnecessary and ethically unsound. Why unnecessary? Well, passing on fault mitochondria can also be avoided by not having children at all, or adopting. Even embryo adoption is an option that would avoid the need for three-parent IVF.
And why unethical?
Well, as with every new medical invention related to human reproduction, many people fear that this one could lead humanity down a slippery slope. For some, it smacks of eugenics and ushers in an age in which people with disease and disability are simply unacceptable. Others are concerned that it people may not really know what they are doing yet, and that playing God could eventually lead to many medical problems that were not foreseen in advance.
Whatever you believe, the chances are that three-parent IVF or mitochondrial replacement will become a reality in the not too distant future. There are several different techniques to accomplish what eventually to the same thing, and a British medical ethics panel decided they were acceptable as long as they were likely to be safe. Pro-life groups are already protesting against the fact that one of the techniques uses specifically created and then discarded embryos.