Britain grants Doctors IVF License for inherited Genetic Disease Prevention

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Nahimat Adekoga with Agency Report

The Britain’s fertility regulator has granted doctors first UK license to create babies using a three-parent In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) technique designed to prevent inherited genetic diseases.

The license, granted to a team of doctors on Thursday in Newcastle, northern England, means first child created in Britain using mitochondrial pronuclear transfer technique could be born before end of this year.

The critics of treatment said it is a dangerous step that would lead to creation of genetically modified designer babies.

However, the medical team at Newcastle Fertility Centre said they were delighted with decision, to help families affected by devastating diseases.

A professor of Reproductive Biology at the Centre, Mary Herbert, explained that many years of research have led to development of pronuclear transfer as a treatment to reduce risk of mothers transmitting disease to their children.

“It’s a great testament to regulatory system here in UK that research innovation can be applied in treatment,” Herbert added.

She said further that technique involves intervening in fertilization process to remove mitochondria, which act as tiny energy generating batteries inside cells, and which if faulty, can cause fatal heart problems, liver failure, brain disorders, blindness and muscular dystrophy.

According to her, treatment is known as “three-parent” IVF because the babies, born from genetically modified embryos, would have DNA from a mother, a father and from a female donor.

The professor added that it is designed to help families with mitochondrial diseases, incurable conditions passed down maternal line that affect around one in 6,500 children worldwide.

Herbert elucidated that Britain’s parliament voted last year to change law to allow treatments if and when they were ready for licensing, however, the regulator, Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority (HFEA), still had to approve each clinic and each patient on an individual basis before treatment can be carried out.

A fertility expert at Sheffield University, Allan Pacey, who said it was a great day for science, added that while Britain has been at forefront of scientific advances and ethical debate about pro-nuclear transfer techniques, it would not be first country in the world to have children born using three-parent IVF treatment.

“The world’s first and so far only known mitochondrial transfer baby was born in 2016 after U.S. doctors working at a clinic in Mexico helped a Jordanian couple conceive using the treatment,” Pacey said.

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