The UK’s Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has officially announced the birth of the country’s first babies created using a technique that combines DNA from three people.
The experimental procedure was designed to prevent the children from inheriting rare genetic diseases.
According to the HFEA, fewer than five babies have been born using this method in the UK, but no further details were provided to protect the anonymity of the families involved. The news was initially reported by The Guardian newspaper.
The process used to create the child is called mitochondrial donation treatment (MDT). This technique involves removing the nucleus from one of the mother’s eggs, which contains her DNA, and transferring it into a donor egg.
The donor egg’s nucleus is removed, but its healthy mitochondrial DNA is retained.
“Mitochondrial donation treatment offers families with severe inherited mitochondrial illness the possibility of a healthy child,” the UK fertility regulator said in a statement on Wednesday.
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While stating that it is still early in the process, the agency expressed its hope that the scientists involved, who work at Newcastle University, will publish further details of the treatment soon.
In the UK, women who wish to undergo this treatment must receive approval from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority.
The regulator has set strict eligibility criteria for the procedure, requiring families to have exhausted all other options for preventing the transmission of genetic disease before being considered for mitochondrial donation treatment.
The birth of children through MDT is not a new phenomenon in the world, as Mexico has already reported a successful birth of a child using the technique in 2016.
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In that case, the child’s mother was suffering from Leigh syndrome, a fatal condition that affects the development of the nervous system and could have been inherited through her mitochondrial DNA.
The successful birth of these babies marks a major milestone in reproductive medicine, and the HFEA has called for ongoing monitoring of the children’s health and development to ensure the safety and efficacy of the procedure.