News / Health

    Three-Parent IVF Could Reduce Disease, But Stirs Debate

    Human genetic material is stored at a laboratory in Munich, May 23, 2011.Human genetic material is stored at a laboratory in Munich, May 23, 2011.
    x
    Human genetic material is stored at a laboratory in Munich, May 23, 2011.
    Human genetic material is stored at a laboratory in Munich, May 23, 2011.
    Jessica Berman
    Researchers say devastating birth defects caused by tiny genetic errors in a mother’s DNA could be prevented with a controversial procedure that would produce an embryo from the recombined DNA of a mother, a father and a second female donor. The in-vitro fertilization technique, known as 3-parent IVF, would correct the mother's defective egg with the healthy genetic material from a female donor. The experimental procedure is stirring a big debate in Britain, where medical researchers are hoping to win government approval for human trials.

    Three-parent IVF involves producing embryos for implantation in the womb that contain the genetic material of three individuals - two women and a man. It is designed to correct mitochondrial diseases - inherited conditions passed down through the mother's DNA. Mitochondria are the biochemical power plants in every human cell. When they don't function properly, the result is a wide range of mostly neuromuscular problems, some of them devastating. But they also can affect the heart, and cause vision and hearing loss, seizures and serious digestive problems.

    To correct the mitochondrial glitch, doctors say they would fertilize the mother’s defective egg with the father’s sperm, and then transfer their genetic material into a hollowed-out egg containing a female donor's healthy mitochondrial DNA. The corrected egg then would be implanted into the mother to carry to term, permanently eliminating the risk of mitochondrial disorders from the family line. That's the theory, anyway.

    Elizabeth Chao is medical director of Ambry Genetics in California, which develops prenatal tests for genetic disorders.  

    Chao said mitochondrial diseases are rare worldwide, with anywhere from one in 6,000 to one in 10,000 children born with the incurable genetic defect. If approved by regulators in Britain, though, where three-parent IVF is now being studied, Chao said the procedure could make a huge difference in the lives of affected families.

    “A lot of these diseases are very devastating, and the options to date have been very few for them to prevent disease and to treat disease in their children," said Chao. "And I think this is a real breakthrough that could be remarkable to help a small number of individuals - when used appropriately."

    But to David King, director of the British health watchdog group Human Genetics Alert, three-parent IVF is unnecessary and dangerous. He compares it to widely discredited schemes for social engineering.

    “That opens the door then to starting to create so-called supposedly superior children with enhanced intelligence and appearance and so on.  And we may end up going down much the same road as the Nazis. But rather than it ends up being controlled by the state, it will be controlled by market forces,” said King.

    Pointing to experiments in which cloned animals have shortened life spans or are bigger than normal, King also is concerned that the genetically engineered embryos could result in babies with unforeseen physical disabilities that would be passed down to future generations in the modified DNA.  

    British regulators are expected to rule on the safety of the three-parent IVF procedure next year.

    You May Like

    Escalation of Media Crackdown in Turkey Heightens Concerns

    Critics see 'a new dark age' as arrests of journalists, closures of media outlets by Erdogan government mount

    Russia Boasts of Troop Buildup on Flank, Draws Flak

    Russian military moves counter to efforts to de-escalate tensions, State Department says

    Video Iraqis Primed to March on Mosul, Foreign Minister Says

    Iraqi FM Ibrahim al-Jaafari tells VOA the campaign will meet optimistic expectations, even though US officials remain cautious

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: andrewborovskikh@gmail.co
    October 03, 2012 11:24 AM
    It sure could be pretty dangerous. A moneybag can think they can buy enhanced intelligence and appearance and so on. Because it’s Big Money. But Big Money, however big it were, cannot buy the huge amount of time (no less than multiple generations), that is necessary to make sure the enhancements are really beneficial to them.
    They think they are at an advantage because they have bought the water pipeline and now drink clean water while the paupers drink the stagnant bog water. It turns out in the issue that the pipeline of lead reduced their lifespan by a decade. So, their money had bought the pipes of lead, but it could not buy the two millennia that were necessary to see the detriment of the would-be improvement.
    The moral of the story is: a moneybag who has taken the path of artificially improving their body, appearance, intelligence, and even the living environment, becomes a kinda guinea pig for two-millennia-long test. Guinea-pig-moneybag, if you please.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Processi
    X
    Katherine Gypson
    July 27, 2016 6:21 PM
    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora