Scientists Admit First Baby With 3 Parents Was Lucky Not to be a “Mutant” Baby With Faulty DNA

Bioethics   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Apr 3, 2017   |   2:33PM   |   London, England

The controversial new three-parent embryo technique has many scientists concerned about how these experiments with human lives will play out in the future.

Two top researchers in England recently said the controversial three-parent embryo procedure has a very high risk of introducing genetic flaws into children, and the research team who conceived the first child born from the technique are “lucky” that the child is healthy.

Their responses involve the case of Abrahim Hassan, the first three-parent baby born in Mexico last year, according to the Daily Mail.

A team of New York researchers, led by Dr. John Zhang, conceived Hassan using sperm from his father and an egg from his mother injected with a third woman’s DNA. The scientists used the third woman’s DNA to keep Hassan from inheriting a fatal disorder called Leigh syndrome from his mother, according to the report.

Experimental three-parent embryo treatments have many scientists concerned.

Here’s more from the report:

Top stem cell biologist Professor Robin Lovell-Badge, from the Francis Crick Institute in London, made his comments after details of the case appeared in the journal Reproductive BioMedicine Online.

Dr Lovell Badge said: ‘It is of, course, good news that the woman being treated was able to have an apparently healthy child with no signs of mitochondrial disease, but from the paper it seems that in many respects Zhang and colleagues were sailing very close to the wind and that luck played a large part in the outcome.’

He said the method used ‘gave a high frequency of abnormal embryos’ – with three out of four early stage embryos created having high levels of faulty DNA.

He added: ‘In the end they only had one normal-looking embryo that could be transferred into the patient.

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‘They were lucky that this was indeed normal and that it gave rise to a pregnancy. And they were lucky that the proportion of abnormal mitochondrial DNA remained relatively low in most tissues.’

In other words, it appears that Zhang and his team destroyed several living, human embryos before they finally found a “normal” embryo (baby Hassan) and implanted him into his mother’s womb.

At least two other “three-parent” babies also have been born in Europe, and while the babies appear healthy, no one really knows the future implications of manipulating their DNA.

This concerns Dr. David Clancy at the University of Lancaster in England.

“We now have data, albeit incomplete, on a person resulting from a mitochondrial replacement technique,” he said, according to the Mail. “It might not be unreasonable to consider this as an experiment; an experiment which uses a child. A child who had no ability to consent …

“Even a moment’s consideration of the ethical issues completely overridden by this work should make us very concerned,” Clancy said.

Some worry that the three-parent embryo method will lead to the creation of designer babies, while others point out that some techniques already are destroying human lives.

Previously, Dr. Stuart Newman, a leading cell biologist and professor at New York Medical College, questioned both the science and the ethics of the method. “The mitochondria are . . . participants in the development of the organism. This clearly makes any person [brought into being from the procedure] a product of wholesale genetic engineering.”