A dog groomer from Leicester in the UK is to become one of the UK’s first women to have a baby born with the DNA of two parents. She is doing this to avoid passing on deficient genes to her child. Yesterday the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority approved a new treatment that would allow defective DNA to be replaced with the healthy DNA of a third party.
The mother Hannah Smith who’s 29 and from Leicester has the inherited disease “Melas Syndrome” which causes significant problems and symptoms and is incurable. It’s believed that without the third party DNA then Miss Smith would be almost certain to pass on the debilitating syndrome to her offspring.
It reignites strong debates on so called “designer babies” and raises several intriguing moral and ethical questions. The pioneering researches at Newcastle university developed the technique and have now become the first team to apply for a licence to carry out the procedure. They developed the technique whilst working alongside Miss Smith, who will no doubt be their first subject once the controversial therapy is approved.
The church and campaigners have been highly critical. Dr David King of Human Genetics alert said: “This decision, to approve experiments on babies, using this dangerous and medically unnecessary technology risks all our children’s futures. It opens the door to designer babies.” The church of Scotland has also been a very vocal campaigner and has suggested that the procedure would cross an ethical “Bright line” suggesting that this is an early step in to “designer babies”. Though the scientific community has defended the right of women to have healthy babies. There’s little doubt that this will cause huge ethical issues between religion and science.
Though Miss Smith will not be the first mother to have a child using the technique, as a mother in Mexico had a similar successful treatment earlier this year. Though it must be noted that Mexico doesn’t have the same legal issues regarding the procedure. Newcastle University hope that if approved they’ll be able to carry out up to 25 patients per year using the Mitochondrial donation technique that they’ve pioneered.
While controversial it is hoped that the new procedure will help would be parents be able to have the children that they strongly desire, but for medical reasons perhaps would not have been able to have. Though as in all of these types of situations religious groups will be highly critical.
Joseph is a 34 year old freelance writer from London. He has a wide interest in politics and specialises in the subject. He's also a blog writer in his spare time.