'Designer Babies' Procedure Could Benefit Children With Genetic Diseases


Three-person in-vitro fertilization, which was recently proposed in the United Kingdom, is viewed by some as the first step to constructing “designer babies.” However, the process could benefit many couples as it aims to eliminate genetic diseases in infants.

Three-person IVF consists of taking out a baby’s “bad” mitochondrial DNA for a donor’s mitochondrial DNA while still keeping the baby’s nuclear DNA intact, therefore allowing the baby to still inherit its mothers physical characteristics, reports ABC News. 

Lori Martin, a Houston woman, and her son, Will, could have benefitted from such a procedure as Will was born with a mitochondrial disease known as Leigh’s disease, which is inherited from a mother’s DNA. The incurable disease prevents Will from turning food into energy.

"[Will] could wake up tomorrow and have lost all function,” Lori said.

Because of Will’s genetic condition, Lori was told she should only have children with the use of a donor egg – which would lack almost all of her nuclear DNA but would be free of the disease.

While three-person IVF would allow Lori’s next baby to have her DNA and be disease-free, it is currently banned in the United States because it manipulates cells beyond simply fertilizing an egg cell with a sperm cell, reports ABC.

Debra Mathews, a bioethicist at the Berman Institute at Johns Hopkins University Medical School, said three-person IVF is not about creating cookie-cutter children, it is about creating a baby without a fatal disease.

"A lot of people see [three-person IVF] as genetic selection, but it's really about people being responsible,” Mathews said. “[Parents] are not asking us to pick a girl or a boy, blond hair or brown hair. They're just asking us to pick whether or not that child has Leigh's syndrome."

Two years later, Martin is now pregnant again thanks to traditional IVF and a donor egg. Although she had to sacrifice giving her baby her own DNA, her child will have her husband's genetic material and be disease-free, and for Martin, right now that security is enough.

"There will not be another child from our family to have this exact gene," Martin said. "It's kind of exciting to stop something so terrible from ever occurring again."

Source: ABC News

Photo credit: ABC News courtesy of Lori Martin


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