This week I was incredibly excited to hear that a second baby with there parents has been born in Ukraine through a complex IVF procedure. The first three part baby was born last year in Mexico to avoid the conceived child suffering from Leigh Syndrome (a severe neurological disorder that causes progressive loss of movement and deterioration of mental functions), which would have eventually proved fatal.
In Mexico, the technique to create the baby involved removing the nucleus from one of the mother’s eggs and inserting it into a donor egg with its own nucleus removed, and this egg was then fertilised with sperm from the father. Mitochondrial DNA from the donor egg is what means the child has three biological parents. However, this was slightly different to the method carried out by the Kiev team in Ukraine, who fertilised the mother’s egg with the father’s sperm, and then transferred the combination of genes into a donor egg.
Originally, the concept of three parent babies was designed to help women who carry mitochondrial diseases have healthy children, but the method was adapted for the couple in Ukraine, who were previously infertile, to enable them to start a family of their own.
Despite this being an incredible medical breakthrough, there is a lot of controversy surrounding this issue; for example, whilst here in the UK there have been three laws passed to allow the creation of babies from three people, UK experts argue that the two procedures that have occurred so far have been highly experimental, and question the ethics of allowing people to create babies in the way.
On one hand, it can be argued that this medical breakthrough is something we should celebrate – it proves just how far we have been able to push the boundaries of science, and it has already allowed us to help two families have a family of their own, something that was previously unthinkable. As well as this, it will enable us to push the field of genetics even further in the future, and could help us to completely remove some genetic conditions, which previously have been untreatable or even fatal.
On the other hand however, given that we have not had the chance to study someone before who has grown up with three biological parents, it is difficult to predict whether the child will be able to live a healthy life – there is always potential for something within their DNA to go wrong. Also, it could lead to complications with guardianship of the child in the future: what happens if the child is orphaned – does the third parent have a duty or a responsibility to care for the child? Moreover, as with the arguments against IVF in general, many religions argue that the creation of an embryo by mechanical means goes against nature, and some believe that to interfere in procreation is to act as God. Furthermore, what about the child themselves – they will grow up knowing that they are part of a scientific experiment, and how will they feel knowing that they have three biological parents? They may even face prejudice at school and later on in life from people arguing that they shouldn’t exist. Finally, whilst we may be able to eradicate some genetic diseases, there is potential that we could create new ones, exposing generations after us to diseases that they would not have suffered from had we not interfered with genetics to begin with.
I hope you have found this enlightening, and if you have any views you would like to share, please leave a comment.
Thanks for reading!