Scientists Head Towards Creating Baby With Three Parents to Eliminate Disease

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Aug 27, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Scientists Head Towards Creating Baby With Three Parents to Eliminate Disease

by Steven Ertelt Editor
August 27
, 2009

Washington, DC ( — The latest news from the world of genetic manipulation comes from scientists who are conducting research on monkeys that they say could lead to the birth of a human being with three parents in order to eliminate the possibility of inheriting and genes that could cause certain diseases or conditions.

Genetic engineering has long caused problems for pro-life advocates and bioethicists because of the manipulation involved and research that destroys human life in order to create a so-called perfect human race.

It also leads, they say, to a society which devalues the disabled and the physically and mentally disabled.

Despite the concerns, Shoukhrat Mitalipov, of the Oregon National Primate Research Centre, has moved forward with experiments in monkeys. His team created a technique that led to the birth of four healthy macaque monkeys.

The research involved the transplantation of genetic material in the DNA of one monkey into the egg of another to correct genetic defects that damage health.

The success of the technique, germline genetic engineering, could mean that it could be used in women in a matter of years to allow them to avoid passing along so-called harmful genes to their unborn children.

However, the technique makes it so the children it creates would inherit genetic material from three parents. The unborn baby’s mother and father would contribute most of their child’s DNA but a small amount would come from a second woman donating healthy mitochondria, where defects can cause issues for one out of ever 6,500 people.

“The only way to treat these defects is to replace the genes,” Mitalipov told the London Daily mail newspaper.

“This is gene transfer involving the germline, which is a concern, but we are pursuing it not for general use but for patients with mutations they will pass to the next generation. We believe this technology will prevent that," he said.

His team published their findings in the journal Nature, where they modified eggs containing chromosomes from one female monkey and mitochondria from another and fertilized them using sperm. The resulting embryos were transferred to the wombs of surrogate mothers.

The first monkeys to be born were twins called Mito and Tracker, after a dye called MitoTracker used in the experiments. Two more monkeys were born after later experiments.

Tests showed that none of the monkeys had any trace of mitochondrial DNA from the mother that provided their nuclear DNA, suggesting that the process was successful.

“We consider it a big achievement,” Dr Mitalipov said. “Anything we study and achieve in non-human primates can be translated much more easily to humans.”

He told the Daily Mail that his would apply to the FDA for permission to try the technique with human eggs. Such research would have to wait for a few years for the longer-term results of the study involving the monkeys to produce enough data about their health.

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