New embryo methods should be allowed

2012-06-12 22:27
Embryonic stem cell. (File)

Embryonic stem cell. (File)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

London - An influential British bioethics group says that couples who face the risk of having a baby with certain genetic diseases should be allowed to use eggs from two women to produce the embryo.

Such controversial procedures should only be allowed if they are proven safe, the Nuffield Council on Bioethics said on Tuesday, but its advice seems likely to reignite debate. Currently, such treatments are only allowed for research in the UK, and British law forbids altering a human egg or embryo before transferring it into a woman.

In 2008, when British scientists first announced they had created embryos using the method, news headlines trumpeted the idea of a child having three parents - two biological mothers and a father.

But scientists say that only trace bits of genetic material would come from one of the women.

The procedure involves using an egg from one woman with mitochondrial defects and the sperm of her partner. Scientists then put that embryo into an emptied egg from a second woman with healthy mitochondria. Only trace amounts of a person's genes come from the mitochondria, and experts said it would be wrong to say the embryos have three parents.

"If these novel techniques are adequately proven to be acceptably safe and effective as treatments, it would be ethical for families to use them," the report said. The authors couldn't say when the techniques might be ready, but thought it would take several years.

The mitochondria are a cell's energy source and are contained outside the nucleus in a normal female egg. Mistakes in the mitochondria's genetic code can result in serious diseases such as muscular dystrophy, epilepsy, heart problems and mental retardation. About one in 6 500 children in Britain is born with a serious mitochondrial disorder.

Some activists warned that allowing the new methods would be one step away from allowing genetically modified babies.

"The techniques are unnecessary, and research on them is a waste of taxpayers' money because safe and effective techniques already exist," David King, director of Human Genetics Alert, said in a statement. The group is a secular organisation that opposes many genetics and fertilisation experiments. King compared the technique to Frankenstein's creation.

Other experts said the research was intended only to help parents have healthy children.

"We have an opportunity to allow women with mitochondrial [problems] to become mothers without facing the agonising possibility of passing their condition onto their child," Marita Pohlschmidt, director of research at the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign, said in a statement. She urged the government to move quickly to develop the treatment so that it could be used as soon as possible.

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
Read more on:    health  |  research  |  genetics

linking and moving

2015-04-22 07:36 publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Rugby World Cup 2015

All the action from the 2015 RWC, including live coverage of all 48 matches, breaking news, fixtures, results, logs - and much more!


Rugby World Cup 2015

Boks up to No 4 in rankings
Hooper cited over shoulder charge
Last chance for Paige to play?
WATCH: Maradona dances with Los Pumas in the changeroom
Traffic Alerts

It is time to focus on your daily rhythm. Are you putting too much attention on future projects and neglecting the day to more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.