FDA Considers 3-Person Embryo Fertilization

Procedure could prevent children from inheriting genetic diseases from mothers

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The FDA is considering an experimental fertilization technique that makes it possible to create a baby from the DNA of three people, with the goal to bypass genetic disorders from the mother.

This week, the FDA will weigh both sides of the case for a procedure that could prevent mothers from passing along genetic diseases, but also open the door to the possibility of designer babies, experts and critics argue.

In the fertilization technique, researchers remove the nucleus DNA from a donor’s eggs and replace it with the DNA of the mother. This means that a child born to this mother inherits traits like her eye color, but not traits from her mitochondrial DNA, where genetic disorders originate. That would come from the healthy donor.

Dr. Shoukhrat Mitalipov from Oregon Health & Science University in Portland and his colleagues have produced five healthy monkeys from this approach, and Dr. Mitalipov wants FDA approval to test the technique in women with gene disorders that can lead to blindness and organ failure.

“We want to replace these mutated genes, which by nature have become pathogenic to humans,” Dr. Mitalipov told the Associated Press. “We’re reversing them back to normal, so I don’t understand why you would be opposing that.”

Critics argue that making genetic changes through a procedure like this could have unintended health consequences, and that the process helps only a small number of women with these disorders, who could opt for other methods to have healthy children.