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Three-Person Embryo ‘Ethical,' Report Says

  • VOA News

FILE - An embryologist works on a petri dish at a London fertility clinic.

FILE - An embryologist works on a petri dish at a London fertility clinic.

It is ethical, under certain conditions, to create an embryo from the DNA of three people, according to a new report.

The report from the Institute of Medicine said using DNA from three people, a man and two women, was ethical in certain situations. Researchers think creating embryos this way could one day prevent passing genetic diseases from one generation to the next.

The procedure concerns DNA only a mother can pass along.

Last year, Britain became the first country to approve the technique, which took defective DNA from one mother and replaced it with healthy material from a donated egg.

Now, it will be up to the Food and Drug Administration to determine if the technique can be tested in the United States.

The Institute of Medicine’s report, which was issued Wednesday, said testing the procedure was ethical when targeting women with a high risk of passing on severe genetic conditions. Also, the report said the procedure should only be done with male embryos because men would not pass on the genetic change to their children.

The genes are inside the cell’s mitochondria, which act as the power generators of cells.

"Mitochondrial DNA disease can be extremely devastating, and for the women who are at risk of passing it on to their children, they have no other option by which to pursue having a child that's genetically related to them," said Jeffrey Kahn, a bioethicist at Johns Hopkins University who led the Institute of Medicine panel in an interview with the Associated Press. "It is ethically acceptable to go forward, but go slowly and with great caution."

According to the AP, the FDA will “determine if there has been enough basic research into the safety and potential effectiveness of the approach to allow studies in people.”

When the agency would make a decision was unclear.

One potential hurdle is recently passed budget legislation that contains language about the modification of embryos, which could potentially keep the FDA from approving the technique.

Dr. Shoukhrat Mitalipov of Oregon Health & Science University, a leading researcher in the field who is talking with the FDA about human studies, says the technique could be the best way to prevent severe genetic diseases.

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