The British Parliament has voted to legalize creation [manipulation] of babies using DNA from three different people. The legislation – which was passed by a margin of 254 votes – allows the use of a technique called “mitochondrial donation.” They are the first national government to do so.
To supporters, it means women will be able to have children without passing on serious and incurable diseases of the mitochondria.
Opponents questioned the technique’s safety and warned it could lead to “designer” babies according to Sky News.
Professor Dame Sally Davies, England’s Chief Medical Officer, argued ahead of the vote that the technique would prevent great suffering. “The 37 genes in the mitochondria are for energy making. They do not make us who we are or what we are,” she said. “Yet children born with defective ones often don’t live a year or two. “Others get gradual deterioration of muscles, heart, kidneys, vision and brain and die in their late teens and early 20s.”
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Mitochondrial donation was pioneered by scientists at Newcastle University.
Mitochondria are the tiny compartments inside nearly every cell of the body that convert food into useable energy. They have their own DNA which does not affect characteristics such as appearance.
Defective mitochondria, which are passed down only from the mother, lead to brain damage, muscle wasting, heart failure and blindness. The technique of mitochondrial donation combines the DNA of the two parents with the healthy mitochondria of a donor woman.