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U.S. weighs evidence on producing 'three-parent' embryos

Wednesday, Feb 26, 2014 - 02:09

Feb. 26 - U.S. medical advisers hold a public hearing to consider whether human studies of a controversial procedure known as ''three-parent in vitro fertilization (IVF)'' is scientifically justifiable. While bioethicists fear the practice could lead to the creation of 'designer babies', researchers argue it will help eliminate inherited diseases and provide reproductive options for women carrying defective DNA. Katharine Jackson reports.

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When it comes to its genes, baby monkey Mito has not two, but three parents. Mito is short for mitochondria -- the gene-carrying structures located in the nucleus that biologists call the power plants of the cell. Using a controversial in vitro fertilization technique, Mito's mother's egg was injected with mitochondrial DNA from an egg donor and then fertilized with his father's sperm. (SOUNDBITE) (English) Biologist Shoukhrat Mitalipov of Oregon Health and Science University saying: "This will work in humans because we've tested it in other primates." Biologist Shoukhrat Mitalipov of Oregon Health and Science University, who conducted the research, says it should be expanded to women with mutations in their mitochondria that cause inherited diseases, such as recurrent seizures, blindness, and diabetes. (SOUNDBITE) (English) Biologist Shoukhrat Mitalipov of Oregon Health and Science University saying: "They almost have no reproductive options, so they will either have to adopt a child or not have their own children at all, and this technique would allow them to produce genetically their own child with these mutated genes actually replaced with healthy genes." During two days of public hearings in Maryland this week, The U.S. Food and Drug Administration collected information from scientists about whether to allow clinical trials to begin. Critics like bioethicist and physician D. Joy Riley say the technique could lead to 'designer babies.' (SOUNDBITE) (English) Bioethicist and physician D. Joy Riley saying: "If it is our opinion right now that we can correct children this way, that means that we become the manufacturers of new generations. And when you talk about manufacturing processes, you talk about quality control, you talk about what happens to the mistakes, what is the fail rate and what kinds of failures will we tolerate." Mitalipov says doctors should treat human genes as they treat other body parts...replacing faulty material with functional donor material. (SOUNDBITE) (English) Biologist Shoukhrat Mitalipov of Oregon Health and Science University saying: "There are humans with transplanted liver or heart or blood. They carry foreign DNA, so they have four parents by this definition, right?" Three-parent human embryos have already been produced in the lab. The next step for scientists is to create a human baby...just as they have a baby monkey.

U.S. weighs evidence on producing 'three-parent' embryos

Wednesday, Feb 26, 2014 - 02:09

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