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Three-Parent Baby Fertility Treatment: Controversy Lingers Despite Baby's Health [VIDEO]

Update Date: Apr 12, 2017 10:38 AM EDT
California Embryo Bank Provides Donated Eggs For Stem Cell Research
LA JOLLA, CA - FEBRUARY 28: Embryologist Ric Ross holds a dish with human embryos at the La Jolla IVF Clinic February 28, 2007 in La Jolla, California. The clinic accepts donated embryos from around the country through The Stem Cell resource which are then given to stem cell research labs for research. 
(Photo : Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images)

Last year, scientists were in awe about the birth of a baby boy who was the product of a controversial three-parent baby fertility treatment that Dr. John Zhang and his team had carried out. The baby's health appeared in good condition. To address the ethical and scientific concerns about it, they released a report last week.

Researchers had insisted that Zhang makes available information about the three-parent baby fertility treatment. He complied but the issues surrounding this method were not entirely covered.

The in vitro technique is called mitochondrial replacement therapy because it makes use of a healthy donor's mitochondrial DNA instead of the mother's. These women have a risk of passing mitochondrial diseases such as Leigh's syndrome to their children but this method promises to prevent such occurrence. Recently, the UK approved mitochondrial donation on a case-by-case basis.

Zhang's report contained a description of the participants and the process but even the journal editors of Reproductive BioMedicine Online who published it found the write up not as comprehensive as they hoped it would. It was not able to expound on all possible risks resulting from the method to the child's health. It is not clear whether the parents were aware of the full extent of the procedure and all the consequences.

The experiment was carried out in Mexico without the oversight of regulatory bodies in the US where it is not approved until now. This circumstance surrounding the procedure was a major flaw. The Institute of Medicine suggested that there be more research on the three-parent baby fertility treatment technique via trials on animals. They emphasized exercising caution in this area.

Another weakness noted about the technique is that it did not completely prevent the mother's mitochondrial DNA with mutations from being passed to the boy. Zhang admitted that the boy might be carrying as much as 9 percent of the defective genes but they gave an assurance that they are monitoring the baby's health status, and he seemed to be in good health.

However, Patrick O'Farrell, a biologist from the University of California expressed concern that mutations could increase as the child grows, the NPR reported.

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