Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Medicine United Kingdom Science

UK Government Backs Three-Person IVF 132

Posted by Soulskill
from the US-republicans-introduce-defense-of-test-tubes-act dept.
Dupple writes "The U.K. looks set to become the first country to allow the creation of babies using DNA from three people, after the government backed the in vitro fertilization technique. It will produce draft regulations later this year and the procedure could be offered within two years. Experts say three-person IVF could eliminate debilitating and potentially fatal mitochondrial diseases that are passed on from mother to child. Opponents say it is unethical and could set the UK on a 'slippery slope.' They also argue that affected couples could adopt or use egg donors instead. Mitochondria are the tiny, biological 'power stations' that give the body energy. They are passed from a mother, through the egg, to her child. Defective mitochondria affect one in every 6,500 babies. This can leave them starved of energy, resulting in muscle weakness, blindness, heart failure and death in the most extreme cases."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

UK Government Backs Three-Person IVF

Comments Filter:
  • Now they'll have more threesomes than anyone...
  • Zippicamiknicks for all!

  • C'mon! There's a sex joke in there somewhere! Who has one?

  • Unethical (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 28, 2013 @05:43PM (#44137715)

    Unethical - adj. A word describing anything I don't like that makes me feel bad regardless of whether I have actually considered the thing in question.

  • If it's so controversial, why not just get the mitochondrial dna from the father?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Technical reasons, you can't just swap mitochondria, they probably need an egg cell (and swap the nucleus). So the donor needs to be female. A sister of the father would do :)

      • A sister of the father would do :)

        Apparently, the opponents screaming "bloody unethical" got your sentence reshuffled as "The father would do a sister".

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      If it's so controversial, why not just get the mitochondrial dna from the father?

      Because it's not easy. This method (see article) uses an egg from one women, an egg nucleus from another women and sperm from a man. If you can get the father to produce an egg then you're easy non-controversial fix just might work.

    • The nuclear DNA from the egg with the dodgy mDNA is transferred into a donor egg with healthy mDNA. I presume there are reasons you can't replace the mDNA in an egg from another source. Maybe it doesn't survive outside a cell.
      • by Firethorn (177587) on Friday June 28, 2013 @07:08PM (#44138469) Homepage Journal

        The reason is that the nucleus of a cell is relatively huge. Mitochondria are 'almost' independent living cells wholly contained within our cells, and each has it's own DNA. But they're small compared to the nucleus.

        Roughly speaking, it'd be like the difference between removing the pit of a cherry vs trying to remove every seed out of a watermelon the size of a cherry.

        • Roughly speaking, it'd be like the difference between removing the pit of a cherry vs trying to remove every seed out of a watermelon the size of a cherry.

          Hmm... once more please, with cars instead of fruit?

          • In one case it's like taking the radio from a car and fitting it to another one. In the other it's like building a new car around the radio.

          • by Firethorn (177587)

            Hmm...

            One's replacing the program chip in the car, the other is converting it from gasoline to diesel. ;)

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by commodore73 (967172)
      What's controversial to me is choosing to have a baby with defects.
      • What's controversial to me is choosing to have a baby with defects.

        Ah, but that's a 100% natural form of child abuse, and we all know that things that are natural are good for us!

        • Watch the daily show from last night to see what unnatural things are natural. And I didn't mean any offense to anyone who has children with "defects". It's just a choice I would have trouble making.
          • Certainly, I'm not inclined to blame people hit by previously-unknown or very low probability issues. That would be as cruel as it is illogical. It's the ones who knowingly act in the face of alarmingly high odds of ghastly outcomes who creep me out.

            • One thing that worries me is that this choice seems to be on the rise, especially with Downs Syndrome (possibly due to the trend of more births late in life, where that lateness reduces the chances of another successful pregnancy). I see it everywhere now in the progressive community in which I live. I would go so far as to speculate that in centuries past, child sacrifice may have been nature's way of dealing with such defects. Humans that would not have survived in the natural world are kept alive in our
      • by Dcnjoe60 (682885)

        What's controversial to me is choosing to have a baby with defects.

        What's controversial to me is why you or anyone else care what choice people make when dealing with the very personal issue of which children they choose to have.

        • You are using emotional language to obscure the point. That is not a good thing. I shall re-use the same emotional language to illustrate the absurdity of it:

          What's controversial to me is why you or anyone else care what choice people make when dealing with the very personal issue of who to abdut, torture and murder.

          The thing is: it's irrelevant that it's a "very personal issue". We as a society have decided that you're not free to do what you want to other people. This is fair enough because other people g

          • by Dcnjoe60 (682885)

            I was using the original poster's language. Out of curiosity, why did you not respond to his post? You have taken the argument and twisted into torture and murder. Society has established rights to protect the individual against such things and come up with punishments for violations of those rights. The two are not at all the same.

            You are correct that I would object to murdering my child (or any child). Where you logic fails is the assumption you make that every disability is equivalent to torturing your c

        • why you or anyone else care what choice people make when dealing with the very personal issue of which children they choose to have.

          Probably because they never ask the children. Yes, it's personal, but the voices of those people who matter most are never taken into consideration.

          • by Dcnjoe60 (682885)

            why you or anyone else care what choice people make when dealing with the very personal issue of which children they choose to have.

            Probably because they never ask the children. Yes, it's personal, but the voices of those people who matter most are never taken into consideration.

            When you figure out a way to do that, you'll win a Nobel Prize. However, you point out two things, these children are 1) people and 2) they matter, so why would denying them an existence be in their best interest?

            While I am not accusing you of this, very often people who put forth this argument are either doing so because of the burden that they would see on themselves as a parent, or the burden on society (assuming they give up the child I would guess), but not on the child being a person who matters.

            I w

            • these children are 1) people and 2) they matter, so why would denying them an existence be in their best interest?

              Pray tell, why is denying an existence to a healthy child that could have been born instead of a partially or fully disabled child a better option?

              I wonder if Stephen Hawking had been able to have been given the choice, would he have chosen to live or not?

              You seem to be insinuating a line of reasoning that borders on fallacy. We don't know the full extent to which ALS is caused by the individual contributing factors. We don't even know if the genetic factors that seem to be partly responsible for it in many cases in any way contributed to his mental prowess. The same Stephen Hawking might have never developed ALS

              • by Dcnjoe60 (682885)

                Pray tell, why is denying an existence to a healthy child that could have been born instead of a partially or fully disabled child a better option?

                It's not an either or situation. If you have a disabled child, you are not denying a healthy child. Prior to conception there are zero children. At conception there is one child. That child is either healthy or disabled, but like Schroedinger’s cat, we don't know until we look. (That is true even if the mother or father have a predisposition for a genetic abnormality, at least for most abnormalities).

                You seem to be insinuating a line of reasoning that borders on fallacy. We don't know the full extent to which ALS is caused by the individual contributing factors. We don't even know if the genetic factors that seem to be partly responsible for it in many cases in any way contributed to his mental prowess. The same Stephen Hawking might have never developed ALS if his early life had been different. Given a slightly different prenatal and childhood development, genetically the same Stephen Hawking could have developed ALS without getting the brilliance in exchange. And many other people grew into brilliant minds without suffering from ALS.

                There's no reason to assume that a yet-unborn child that to your knowledge will get born disabled or preconditioned for disability with certainty will have an offsetting factor (such as scientific brilliance) with any higher probability than that a healthy child would be gifted.

                There is a genetic marker for ALS on chromosome 21 (I think) and a specific test for it. Although it does not run in families, it can be tested for in utero. As such, it would qualify in this discussion would it not? Even if a child born today is predestined to have ALS, just because they will not have the scientific brilliance of Hawking, are you stating that they should not be allowed to live? That sounds like an argument to kill them off unless they have some benefit for society.

                They matter. But show me one parent that would willingly choose a disabled child upon conception instead of a healthy one if given an option. Go on, just try.

                Again, that is an impossible argument, of course every parent would want their children to be healthy. However, if the mother and father have the dominate genetic traits that will lead to disabilities, it really doesn't matter how many tries they get, their children will have those traits. If only one does, then it is still better than a 50/50 chance the child will, depending on the marker. Even if neither do, there is still a 10% likelihood that there will be a disability.

                But, what your question really should be is of asking parents that have had a disabled child and what their views are about it. Would they have preferred their child had never been born? And while there are those that would agree with that sentiment, there are those that would not. Which comes back to the original question of
                Why you or anyone else care what choice people make when dealing with the very personal issue of which children they choose to have.

                As you seem to be arguing so strenuously, it is a very personal issue that unless you are directly involved with it you cannot begin to make that choice for somebody else.

                • by c6gunner (950153)

                  It's not an either or situation. If you have a disabled child, you are not denying a healthy child.

                  Oh, but it is, and you are.

                  Most people will only have a set number of children in their lifetime. For the majority in the western world, that's somewhere between 1 and 3. If you have one disabled child, and you were only planning on having 2 kids, you're unlikely to now change your mind and have 3.

                  Additionally, depending on the exact medical condition, a deformed child may impede your ability to have further children. You may have been planning on having 2 kids, but due to the added attention and cost as

                  • by Dcnjoe60 (682885)

                    It's not an either or situation. If you have a disabled child, you are not denying a healthy child.

                    Oh, but it is, and you are.

                    Most people will only have a set number of children in their lifetime. For the majority in the western world, that's somewhere between 1 and 3. If you have one disabled child, and you were only planning on having 2 kids, you're unlikely to now change your mind and have 3.

                    Additionally, depending on the exact medical condition, a deformed child may impede your ability to have further children. You may have been planning on having 2 kids, but due to the added attention and cost associated with a handicapped child, you find yourself unable to afford any further children. So instead of 2 healthy children, you end up with one who is disabled.

                    Either way it doesn't seem like a good trade, to me.

                    As you seem to be arguing so strenuously, it is a very personal issue that unless you are directly involved with it you cannot begin to make that choice for somebody else.

                    The decision to become a heroin addict is a deeply personal one also, yet we seem to have no difficulty legislating against it. Even if you could successfully argue that "personal issues" should not be legislated, that still doesn't mean we can't do ANYTHING about it. At the very least we can make sure that people are educated on the issue, and are given the information and advice needed to make the right decision.

                    Well, if you are willing to take on the establishment and tell 1/2 the population (women) that it isn't their body and it is the government that is control of their reproductive systems and whether or not they are allowed to have children then go for it. Effectively, that is what you are saying. Just like China has determined that women should only have 1 child, you are saying that the government should dictate that women should only have children that meet certain requirements. I doubt you will find much

                    • by c6gunner (950153)

                      Well, if you are willing to take on the establishment and tell 1/2 the population (women) that it isn't their body and it is the government that is control of their reproductive systems and whether or not they are allowed to have children then go for it. Effectively, that is what you are saying.

                      O_o

                      I think you forgot to call me Hitler ....

                      Just like China has determined that women should only have 1 child, you are saying that the government should dictate that women should only have children that meet certain requirements.

                      Ah, ok. Yeah, Mao is just as good ....

      • by Anonymous Coward

        First you have to define "defect", after all "defects" are what made us here today, (i'am not disagreeing with your main point btw.) perfection is a variable not a static

      • What's controversial (and also amusing) to me is why you think that's the case here?

        Hint: the second mother's DNA isn't there for teh lulz.

      • by Shavano (2541114)
        Yes, and this only helps with the tiny fraction of genetic diseases that are due to defective mitochondria. But maybe some day, we'll be able to deal with other diseases in a similar fashion. Pick out the chromosome that contains the defective gene, replace it with a normal chromosome from the other parent who does not have the genetic disease. Or pull a good chromosome from an unrelated person (safer, because a matched set of chromosomes can bring recessive defects out of the woodwork).
      • You've got it all wrong. It's about not choosing to not have a baby with defects, which is what god wants. Or something.
        • Surprised how many people interpreted my comment that way. I don't find having this IFV treatment to be controversial. I find *not* having it to be controversial.
    • by pesho (843750)

      If it's so controversial, why not just get the mitochondrial dna from the father?

      Whatever you do there will always be people that will say it is controversial, because of the proverbial slippery slope that will appear at some point in the undefined future. In this case, it is supposed top put us on the path to designer babies. Well it doesn't. This is not targeted manipulation of the genetic content. It is nuclear transfer, similar to what is already a wide spread and well accepted in vitro fertilization procedure. Sure you can isolate mitochnodria from the father and place them in the

      • by sjames (1099)

        Nuclear transfer is not currently used in IVF. They harvest the eggs, they fertilize the eggs, and then implant the most viable looking candidates.

    • by Jmc23 (2353706)
      Probably because sperm has about 1000x less than an egg and it's programmed to self destruct.
    • by sjames (1099)

      The source/lineage of the mtDNA isn't the controversy. The controversy is many-fold.

      First up, a donor embryo is sacrificed in the procedure. You can imagine what groups don't like that.

      Second, the procedure is remarkably similar to cloning. All sorts of people aren't so sure about that.

      Finally, it's highly experimental. If something goes odd, the child may (or may not) have to live with it for a long time. Teasing a nucleus out of one cell and sticking it in another is a bit disruptive to say the least.

      • You missed one. (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Medievalist (16032)

        It's shameful to waste resources on this when the same money could've been used to help increase the adoption rate and to sponsor adoptions. There are children already alive who need parents, no need to make more.

        I just don't understand these poor sad people who are so self-obsessed that they think they can only love a child that carries their own DNA.

        • The adoption rate is just fine: for healthy babies.

          Basically *healthy* *babies* basically always get adopted and there is actually a very long waiting list for them.

          Drug addicted babies aren't nearly so popular. The thing is a baby suffering from foetal alcohol syndrome is basically fucked. The chances are (and the chances are high) that they will end up as an alcoholic later in life, and no amount of perental help will prevent it. Likewise they are likely to have serious behavioural problems.

          The prognosis

    • by Shavano (2541114)

      Because what they really need is a whole cell. Pulling mitochondria from a somatic cell and putting it in an egg is probably possible, but they haven't worked that out yet.

      For that matter, a human egg may not be necessary. Maybe they can use bonobo eggs. Bonobos like to get it on.

  • Could this be used by lesbian couples in the future to have babies that are biological children of both parents? Obviously, such children would always be daughters, but I'm curious whether this sort of technique would help them.

    • Could this be used by lesbian couples in the future to have babies that are biological children of both parents?

      No.

      On the other hand, it might be a step in that direction, as well as in the more general direction of "any two people" can produce a child (as long as you're not too picky about your mitochondrial DNA)

      • by timeOday (582209)
        Offhand it seems like it would be easier to produce a child from one parent (a clone) than from two women or two men, since in that case there is no essential difference between what each partner brings to the table.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        If I understand correctly, this process uses two women and a man. One woman donates the egg with half a genome, the donor male provides the other half and the second woman provides the mitochondrial DNA.
    • That depends how you define "biological children" - mDNA is a separate string of genetic code that does one specific thing. AFAIK it has no effect on physical or mental attributes (except those that might be affected by the problems caused by faulty mDNA). So no, it won't help lesbian couples - there still has to be a daddy, so far.
      • except those that might be affected by the problems caused by faulty mDNA

        If 'faulty' mtDNA can cause problems then mtDNA has an effect. It produce's ATP which gives our cells energy. Conceptually, if a gene can be 'faulty' it only means it can mutate and if it can mutate in can evolve. Consider, if you had the most efficient mtDNA for producing ATP. Now, if a person is born that produces ATP slightly more efficiently will your genes now be 'faulty'? Of course not. In other words, differences in mtDNA might account for people who naturally have lots of energy versus those t

        • If 'faulty' mtDNA can cause problems then mtDNA has an effect.

          Well, what I was trying to get at was that I don't see an mtDNA donor being any more a biological parent than, say, a bone marrow donor. The kid isn't going to have Mummy's eyes, Daddy's smile, and mtMummy's nose. What's more, if the kid's a boy, the mtDNA donor's contribution to the family gene pool ends with him.

      • by Shavano (2541114)
        So aside from making your body work at all, it's totally superfluous... The truth is, we have little clue if different mitochondrial cells have effects physical or mental attributes. But if I had to bet, I'd bet that they do because they're all over the cell doing shit.
    • Could this be used by lesbian couples in the future to have babies that are biological children of both parents? Obviously, such children would always be daughters, but I'm curious whether this sort of technique would help them.

      "Parethenogenesis" [wikipedia.org], in mammals, is still very much in the lab. If memory serves, they've gotten some rabbits and a few mice, and some human demo cells(either not allowed to, or unable to develop past very early stages). I don't think anybody suspects it of being fundamentally intractable; but you can't exactly head down to the local fertility clinic and get it done.

    • by Shavano (2541114)
      No, because egg+egg doesn't make an embryo. I don't think scientists know why yet.
  • I don't mind (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Mike Frett (2811077) on Friday June 28, 2013 @05:54PM (#44137809)

    This at all, but there are many, many desperate children that feel so hopeless and lonely right now in some orphanage, that really do need someones love. I hope more people give thought to that, rather than the ever over-population of our Mother Earth.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Sure, just lobby the government to let my wife, who suffers from mild (and totally treated) bipolar disorder adopt, and we'd think about stopping IVF cycles.

    • Re:I don't mind (Score:5, Informative)

      by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Friday June 28, 2013 @06:09PM (#44137979)

      there are many, many desperate children that feel so hopeless and lonely right now in some orphanage

      Adoption in many countries is very difficult, and plenty of potential parents do not qualify. My wife and I are financially secure, and are very successfully raising two of our own kids. But we had room in our home and our hearts for at least one more, and looked into adoption. We were turned down. The reasons given were that we were too old (I am in my 50s and my wife is in her 40s), and we already have kids of our own, and childless couples would be given priority.

      If there really are orphanages full of desperate children, then governments are doing an incredibly poor job of matching them up with willing and capable parents.

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        If there really are orphanages full of desperate children, then governments are doing an incredibly poor job of matching them up with willing and capable parents.

        Willing and capable parents tend to produce productive citizens, but we have more than enough of those already. Orphanages do their best to produce criminals, who can be profitably filed under "$"

      • by slew (2918)

        there are many, many desperate children that feel so hopeless and lonely right now in some orphanage

        Adoption in many countries is very difficult, and plenty of potential parents do not qualify. My wife and I are financially secure, and are very successfully raising two of our own kids. But we had room in our home and our hearts for at least one more, and looked into adoption. We were turned down. The reasons given were that we were too old (I am in my 50s and my wife is in her 40s), and we already have kids of our own, and childless couples would be given priority.

        If there really are orphanages full of desperate children, then governments are doing an incredibly poor job of matching them up with willing and capable parents.

        Just think of using a donor egg as "adopting" that egg, and I don't think that's as difficult as adopting a baby in many countries (where IVF was available in the first place). The primary thing the 3-person IVF really enables over the commonly available 2-person IVF is that mother can have the option to be biologically related to the child if the mitochondrial dna in her eggs were somehow defective. Another way to look at it, you still have to "adopt" an egg w/ healthy mitochondria from someone (and if y

  • yadda yadda yadda.
  • Does anybody have a plausible guess about what, exactly, the 'slippery slope' is supposed to be leading ominously and inevitably toward?

    Not all 'slippery slope' arguments are nonsense, by any means; but I'd be a lot more convinced by this one if I had some idea about the alleged topography of the area around the slope. Are there monkey-men at the bottom? clone Hitler armies? The kwisatz haderach?

    • by Firethorn (177587)

      Keep in mind that I actually support stuff like this, ultimately wishing

      I think the problem is that people are scared that the 'wealthy' will get even more ahead, and their own children left in the dust. Or they're scared of a scenario out of Star Trek - the Eugenics wars.

      Personally, I want genetic modification to eliminate various obvious genetic disorders - breast cancer genes, diabetes, etc... However, we should not be changing genes until it's demonstrated that the gene we're fixing is actually a seri

    • by slew (2918)

      The slippery slope is that perfecting this technique is a stepping stone to designer babies.

      Apparently, the current technology allows replacement of the whole nucleus, allowing the nucleus of a fertilized egg w/ defective mitochondria to be placed into another fertilized egg with healthy mitochondria. The implication is that this fertilized egg is placed back in the mother (but it could be anyone). Many folks are pretty sure that we are pretty close to the ability to selectively replace a few chromosomes in

    • by Nidi62 (1525137)

      Does anybody have a plausible guess about what, exactly, the 'slippery slope' is supposed to be leading ominously and inevitably toward?

      1. Obtain DNA of rich person/politician/celebrity

      2. Add said DNA into embryo

      3. Carry child to term

      4. Sue for child support

      5. Profit!

  • I guess I'm still stuck asking why?

    OK, so you've had your genome sequenced (or whatever) and determined there might be a problem. Isn't that nature's way of saying 'sit this one out'?

    Rather than encourage society to devote so many resources to finding new ways to let you make a baby, how about adopting? There are soooo many deserving children out there who are aching for a home. They already exist - they already have the need.

    Don't fiddle with nature - do the simpler thing and bring an existing child into y

  • Stop this - RIGHT NOW.

    Mitochondria do not have DNA, therefore the UK is not creating babies using the DNA from three people.

    Mitochondria are being transferred whole, and contain RNA.

    I know this is slashdot, and we must expect inaccurate reporting of scientific and technical subjects - but really...

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Wrong: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mitochondrial_DNA

  • Off-Topic much.

  • Great, now all the idiots who treat the LaHaye/Jenkins literary trainwreck Left Behind like it was scripture are going to pitch a fit, because there the antichrist is the result of genetic engineering to combine sperm cells of two gay lovers which is then used to artificially inseminate a woman.

No hardware designer should be allowed to produce any piece of hardware until three software guys have signed off for it. -- Andy Tanenbaum

Working...