UK seeks public input on making 3-parent embryos

Last Updated: Friday, February 28, 2014 - 09:27
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London: Britain is inviting the public to weigh in on draft rules allowing scientists to create embryos using DNA from three people a man and two women to prevent mothers from passing on potentially fatal genetic diseases.

The latest public review should be the last step before politicians consider changing the law to let doctors offer the new fertilisation techniques to patients. That would make Britain the first country in the world to allow the procedure to help people have children.

Britain's department of health said yesterday the government hopes to gather as many views as possible before introducing its final regulations. The proposed rules have been published online and the government is inviting people to respond by late May.

The public input isn't meant to debate whether the controversial techniques should be permitted. Instead, it concerns how they should be used to prevent relatively rare diseases caused by DNA defects in parts of the cell called mitochondria. Mistakes in the mitochondria's genetic code can result in diseases such as muscular dystrophy, epilepsy, heart problems and mental retardation.

Mitochondria are energy-producing structures outside the cell's nucleus. The new techniques involve removing the nucleus DNA from the egg of a prospective mother and inserting it into a donor egg, from which the nucleus DNA has been removed. That happens either before or after fertilisation.

The resulting child ends up with the nucleus DNA from its parents, but the mitochondrial DNA from the donor. Scientists say the DNA from the donor egg amounts to less than 1 per cent of the resulting embryo's genes.

"Allowing mitochondrial donation would give women who carry severe mitochondrial disease the opportunity to have children without passing on devastating genetic disorders," Dr Sally Davies, the chief medical officer, said in a statement.

Last year, Britain's fertility regulator said it found broad public support for the technology, but some concerns were raised about safety.

British law currently forbids altering a human egg or embryo before transferring it into a woman, and such treatments are only allowed for research purposes in a laboratory.

The department of health said it hopes legislation will be in place so patients can receive the treatment by the end of the year.



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First Published: Friday, February 28, 2014 - 09:27

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