It is very possible that the United States may follow the United Kingdom's lead and sanction the genetic engineering of future generations using technologies that create human embryos with the genetic material of three people. If Americans do not express our concern over these "mitochondrial replacement" (MR) procedures, which are very similar to the cloning technique that produced Dolly the Sheep, I fear MR will soon be offered by fertility clinics here.
At a time when more and more people are becoming wary of generically-modified foods in their diet, the United Kingdom is poised to begin creating genetically-modified children with the genetic material of three people, two women and one man; a genetic combination that could not occur naturally. And the way the UK goes, the United States may soon follow.
Logic purists will always call the appeal to the slippery slope a fallacy. You cannot argue against A just because it might lead to B.
Oh Huxley, what is your beloved country about to do?
In science fiction movies, it seems like it is easy to edit the genetics of a living organism. In reality, it is very, very difficult. A new technique in genetic engineering is creating quite a buzz in the genetics world because it allows researchers to do just that: edit the DNA of living cells.
There maybe new hope for the millions of patients worldwide that suffer from multiple sclerosis, better known as MS. MS is a debilitating and progressive disease where a patient's own immune system attacks the protective covering around the cells of the nervous system. This causes a wide range of varying and unpredictable symptoms including fatigue, decreased mobility, and visual disturbances.
An excellent piece by Beth Daley from the New England Center for Investigative Reporting called "Overused and Misunderstood" is a must read. It is about the new non-invasive prenatal screening tests offered by companies that claim they are 99% accurate. These screens are done early in pregnancy using only a maternal blood sample giving couples an eariler look at the health of their unborn baby.
The technique that the United States and, more seriously, the United Kingdom are considering bringing to the IVF clinic, which creates embryos with three genetic parents, is often "mitochondrial replacement" or "mitochondrial transfer."
Paul Knoepfler, a vocal stem cell researcher, has penned an open letter to the UK Government asking for them to put the breaks on the three-parent embryo. I post it in its entirety because the whole thing needs to be read.