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UK On Route to Legalize Three-Parent Embryos For Healthier Babies

Update Date: Mar 20, 2013 07:23 PM EDT

The UK has moved closer to becoming the first country to create babies with three genetic parents via IVF in order to defeat inherited diseases.

The Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has advised the government that there is no evidence the advanced forms of IVF were unsafe, but said further research was still necessary, according to the BBC.

The public vote of support clears away a major hurdle in the path of changing the law to allow mitochondrial replacement.

Meanwhile critics shot down the decision as a breach of ethics, saying there were already safe methods like egg donation to allow people to have children without mitochondria defects. Experts believe mitochondrial replacement could lead to the eradication of a host of serious inherited diseases.

Professor Lisa Jardine, chair of the HFEA, told a press conference: "This is advice, this is not a decision we can make. It is now up to parliament to consider whether this technique is permitted in treatment.

"We have no idea when this will be available. It's likely to be years - it is not a short timeframe. We took the public temperature and there is broad support to give families at risk a chance of having a healthy child."

The technique would give a baby DNA from a father, a mother as well as a female egg donor, to eradicate mitochondrial disorders which are debilitating and fatal. Children born after the procedures would possess nuclear DNA inherited from their parents plus mitochondrial DNA from a female egg donor.

Mitochondria are rod-shaped power plants in cells that supply energy. They contain their own DNA which is only passed onto offspring by mothers. One in 200 children are born with a mitochondrial disease each year in the UK, and an estimated 6,000 adults are believed to be affected by the conditions.

The new techniques result in the damaged mDNA being replaced by a healthy version supplied by the female donor.

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