LONDON (Reuters) – Britain on Tuesday could become the first country to allow a “three-parent” IVF technique which doctors say will prevent some inherited incurable diseases but which critics see as a step towards creating designer babies.
Parliament will vote on the technique, called mitochondrial donation, which would be a medi-cal world first for Britain but is fiercely disputed by some religious groups and other critics.
The treatment is known as “three-parent” in vitro fertilisation (IVF) because the babies – born from genetically modified embryos – would have genes from a mother, a father and from a female donor.
It is designed to help families with mitochon-drial diseases, incurable conditions passed down the maternal line that affect around one in 6,500 children worldwide.
The process involves intervening in the fer-tilisation process to remove mitochondria, which act as tiny energy-generating batteries inside
cells, and which, if faulty, can cause inherited conditions such as fatal heart problems, liver failure, brain disorders, blindness and muscular dystrophy.
International charities and advocacy groups urged Britain to pass laws to allow the treatments, saying Tuesday’s vote offers a “first glimmer of hope” of having a baby that can live without suffering.
In an open letter to lawmakers, the US-based United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation, the Australian Mitochondrial Disease Foundation, as well as other groups from France, Germany, Britain and Spain, described mitochondrial di-sease as “unimaginably cruel”.