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Health Team

UK grants 1st license to make babies using DNA from 3 people

Posted March 16

A general view of Newcastle Fertility Clinic, which is on the third floor of this building, in Newcastle, England, Thursday, March 16, 2017. Britain's Newcastle University says its scientists have received a license to create babies using DNA from three people to prevent women from passing on potentially fatal genetic diseases to their children — the first time such approval has been granted. (Owen Humphreys/PA via AP)

— Britain's Newcastle University says its scientists have received a license to create babies using DNA from three people to prevent women from passing on potentially fatal genetic diseases to their children — the first time such approval has been granted.

The license was granted Thursday by the country's fertility regulator, according to the university.

In December, British officials approved the "cautious use" of the techniques, which aim to fix problems linked to mitochondria, the energy-producing structures outside a cell's nucleus. Faulty mitochondria can result in conditions including muscular dystrophy and major organ failure.

"Mitochondria diseases can be devastating for families affected and this is a momentous day for patients," said Doug Turnbull, director of the research at Newcastle University. The university has said it is aiming to treat up to 25 patients a year.

To help women with mitochondria problems from passing them on to their children, scientists remove the nucleus DNA from the egg of a prospective mother and insert it into a donor egg from which the donor DNA has been removed. This can happen before or after fertilization. The resulting embryo ends up with nucleus DNA from its parents but mitochondrial DNA from a donor. The DNA from the donor amounts to less than 1 percent of the resulting embryo's genes.

The license granted to Newcastle University relates only to the clinic's capacity to perform the techniques, Britain's fertility regulator said. The clinic must apply for each individual patient to be treated and no patient application has yet been approved.

Last year, U.S.-based doctors announced they had created the world's first baby using such techniques, after traveling to Mexico to perform the procedure, which has not been approved in the United States.

Critics have raised concerns about the treatment, saying it will put people at unnecessary risk of an untested procedure. Some say women with faulty mitochondria should choose simply to use egg donors and that using the new techniques will open the door to genetically modified "designer babies."

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  • Norman Lewis Mar 16, 1:22 p.m.
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    If you know you have a fatal genetic disorder you may pass on to your children, for the love of God don't have children. The taxpayers that will have to foot the bill for this undoubtedly highly costly experiment that may benefit a handful of people will thank you. In-vitro failures cost at least $10-$15,000 each in the United States and the University will spend millions developing the technology before even beginning. This is madness to attempt such a thing. Not to mention the dozens of embryos that will be destroyed in the process, excuse me, not embryos, unborn children. If this is Socialized medicine, you can keep it. Developing techniques to fix genetic problems in people is one thing, this reminds me of Dr. Frankenstein.