First UK baby born from three people’s DNA
A baby has been born which could see the end of difficult births which lead to mitochondrial diseases which occur within days or hours.
The baby’s DNA came from three people, their two parents and 0.1% from a third, donor woman.
For some families who have lost children at birth this could be one of the only ways of having their own child apart from going down the fostering/ adoption route.
Mitochondria are tiny compartments found inside cells of the body which convert food into usable energy, if this process is damaged it can lead to brain damage, heart failure, blindness and muscle wasting.
Only mums can pass down mitochondria, so the donation treatment can be seen as a modified form of IVF from a healthy donor egg.
Although if a baby is consumed through this process a small percentage of their DNA will be inherited from the donor and would be passed down through the generations.
But the DNA is only responsible for creating effective mitochondria, it does not cause any other traits such as a baby’s appearance or constitute as a “third parent”.
Despite the law being passed in the UK for parents to use a third donor in 2015, it wasn’t until 2016 when the first baby was born using the method to a Jordanian family in the US.
According to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority [HFEA] “less than five” babies have been born as of 20 April 2023.
Sarah Norcross, director of the Progress Educational Trust, said: "News that a small number of babies with donated mitochondria have now been born in the UK is the next step, in what will probably remain a slow and cautious process of assessing and refining mitochondrial donation.”
Prof Robin Lovell-Badge, from the Francis Crick Research Institute, said: "It will be interesting to know how well the mitochondrial replacement therapy technique worked at a practical level, whether the babies are free of mitochondrial disease, and whether there is any risk of them developing problems later in life."
But there is still the risk that any defective mitochondria carried over could multiply and form a disease.
[ It’s estimated that up to 150 babies could be born each year using the process. ]