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Biotech Medicine United Kingdom

UK Government Proposes Rules To Allow 'Three-Parent Embryos' 146

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the meet-my-nine-parents dept.
sciencehabit writes "The U.K. government today issued proposed regulations that would allow researchers to try a new and controversial in vitro fertilization (IVF) procedure in patients. The technique could allow women who are carriers of mitochondrial disease to have healthy, genetically related children. But it also transfers DNA from one egg or embryo into another, a form of genetic alteration that could be passed on to future generations. Altering the genes of human egg cells or embryos in IVF procedures is now forbidden in the United Kingdom."
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UK Government Proposes Rules To Allow 'Three-Parent Embryos'

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  • I thought the SyFy channel ran out of ideas after Sharknado. I guess not.

    • The crazy part is... a kid with three parents may well have a hard time fitting into a legal system that assumes only two. For instance, how would the divorce issues work out (custody, support, etc)?

      Also, a few others: at what point does the result stop being a lab experiment and start being a human being with the same rights as everyone else - for instance, is the kid 'patented' and therefore owned by a corporation or other entity?

      Lots of sticky issues on that one...

      • by JazzHarper (745403) on Thursday February 27, 2014 @04:24PM (#46362257) Journal

        Under the proposal, the donor of the egg would have no parental rights. That is logical, since mtDNA carries very little information, compared to nuclear DNA.

        There is no genetic modification involved so there is no "intellectual property" vested in the DNA of the offspring. From that standpoint, this is no different from conventional in-vitro fertilization.

        • My parents are biological objects. The concept of family has procedural meaning to me: apparently you come out of a person, or you spend much of your life with people, I haven't figured out what it is meant to specify because I've seen people refer to these isolate and my personal experience is both.

          Family is like every other people you meet on the street. They're mostly annoying people you don't want to deal with; a few you might bother to go back and talk to. These particular annoying people won't go

          • and this whole time I was wishing I had parents

        • by cayenne8 (626475)
          Hey, they GMO our food...why not GMO the consumers of said food?
        • What if the donor was the woman initiating the procedure and/or bearing the child?
          • In this particular case, that couldn't happen, although I don't necessarily trust any government rules to not be overly broad or open to misinterpretation and abuse.

            The case here is that an otherwise normal woman has a pathology linked to her mitochondria that will in all likelihood be passed on to her children. For the most part, paternal mitochondria don't get passed on, so the father isn't an issue. So a third party egg donor is screened to make sure she has "normal" mitochondria and provides some eggs,

      • The crazy part is... a kid with three parents may well have a hard time fitting into a legal system that assumes only two.

        Tell me about it. My family tree has routing loops.

      • by wonkey_monkey (2592601) on Thursday February 27, 2014 @05:47PM (#46363271) Homepage

        a kid with three parents may well have a hard time fitting into a legal system that assumes only two

        A kid with three legal parents, perhaps, but that's not what's being discussed.

        For instance, how would the divorce issues work out (custody, support, etc)?

        Surely it would be dealt with in exactly the same way as egg donation, sperm donation, adoption, surrogacy etc. The two legal parents will be the legal parents, and no-one else gets a say.

      • by quenda (644621)

        ... a kid with three parents may well have a hard time fitting into a legal system that assumes only two.

        No, the legal system has long had to deal with far more complex situations. Its not just the two biological parents who have legal standing with a child.
        You have surrogates, grandparents as primary carers, parent's (gay) partner acting as parent ... All have legal rights - ( well, here, I'm not sure about Saudi Arabia or the USA.) - you do not need to be a parent to apply for custody or access rights.

        Sperm donors do not go on the birth certificate, and donors of eggs without chromosomes would have even les

      • by Patch86 (1465427)

        For instance, how would the divorce issues work out (custody, support, etc)?

        This may seem like stating the obvious, but- divorce issues are based on marriage law, not parental law. You can be married to someone who is not the parent of your child (crazy modern world, eh?). And while custody battles tend to favour biological parents, it is not a solid point of law- it is entirely possible for a step parent to be granted custody over a biological parent, if the court thinks a case is compelling.*

        *I have witnessed this in real life. An acquaintance of mine got custody of both children

      • is the kid 'patented' and therefore owned by a corporation or other entity?

        Don't give them any ideas. O, well, who am I kidding, of course they will have thought of that already. I bet they'll pull a Monsanto on any grandchildren.

  • by jeffb (2.718) (1189693) on Thursday February 27, 2014 @03:46PM (#46361841)

    This is a solution doesn't just allow such women to have healthy, genetically related children. It frees their lineage from the disease. Implement this fix in one generation, and the children, grandchildren, and all their progeny are disease-free.

    I find it incredibly offensive to say that women should be forced to condemn their children to suffer from a preventable disease, or be prevented from bearing genetically-related children, simply because some people think the cure is "unnatural".

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by aphelion_rock (575206)
      I can see the merit in this for removing a defective gene.
      How long until people start hand picking the genes for the next super generation. The next super athlete, scientist, beauty queen...
      Add in some DNA from neanderthal man and you can see what other interesting characters we could come up with for our entertainment..

      Once Started, how are you going to police this?
      • by Hognoxious (631665) on Thursday February 27, 2014 @03:57PM (#46361945) Homepage Journal

        You'd have a point if mitochondrial DNA did all that shit. Thing is, mitochondrial DNA doesn't so any of that shit.

        • by LordNimon (85072)

          Is the proposed law limited to mitochondrial DNA? And even if it is, how long before that restriction is lifted in another law? Once you start down this road, there's no going back. The end result is obvious: a world like Gattaca, where every unborn child will need his DNA tampered just to get a job.

        • enough of your shitty facts and pedantry....we were having a good time working up a mob until you opened your big trap

        • Actually, mitochondria DNA does have effects on athletic performance, so there is that.

      • How long until people start hand picking the genes for the next super generation. The next super athlete, scientist, beauty queen...

        I honestly don't care if they do.

      • by cayenne8 (626475)

        How long until people start hand picking the genes for the next super generation. The next super athlete, scientist, beauty queen...

        And, what exactly would be wrong with that? People try to do the best for their kids after they're born...why should they not try to do so BEFORE they're born too? If I could help to ensure my prodigy was smart, healthy, athletic, why in the world would I try for anything less for them?

        Heck, if you're one that believes in God (and I do), you have to believe he gave us the bra

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 27, 2014 @03:58PM (#46361949)

      I find it incredibly offensive to say that women should be forced to condemn their children to suffer from a preventable disease,

      Then don't have kids. It's still an elective choice.

      or be prevented from bearing genetically-related children, simply because some people think the cure is "unnatural".

      By its very definition of how it's done is unnatural and the long term consequences to the gene pool unknown.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Please stop breathing. You're asking someone else to stop one of the basic impetuses of life....its reasonable to ask you to do so in return isn't it?

      • by Microlith (54737)

        Then don't have kids. It's still an elective choice.

        That's a sad excuse for "choice," especially when a solution is readily available.

        By its very definition of how it's done is unnatural

        So is clothing.

        and the long term consequences to the gene pool unknown.

        The gene pool would be unchanged because what's happening is a mechanical repackaging of the genetic material with non-defective mitochondria.

      • by asylumx (881307)
        Air conditioning is unnatural, but people don't have a problem with that. In the medical domain, organ transplants are unnatural but people don't generally have problems with that, either. Why do you care so much about this particular procedure and not about all the other "unnatural" things that exist in the everyday life of a human? Why is it okay to transplant an organ, but not a piece of DNA? Doesn't the organ contain DNA?
        • Those unnatural things are adapted to our nature (generally poorly) while DNA manipulation can change our nature to something indeterminate. Even in this minor first step are the kids going to have three parents legally responsible for them, or is up to government going to make the determination? If lab makes a mistake can the artificial baby be sent back to be destroyed?
          • by dpryan (123256)

            DNA isn't being manipulated. The nuclei are just swapped. Mitochondrial DNA is physically separate from the rest of your DNA. This is a very non-slippery slope.

            Regarding parental rights, the women donating the egg sans-nucleus has no parental rights, which would seem reasonable. Of course that's up to the government, all parental rights in a society are governed by that society via its government. If a lab makes a mistake, then presumably the unfertilized eggs would be destroyed. If by that question you mea

            • by kwbauer (1677400)

              I'm certain the legalities can be sorted out in the same way that adoption (child generally has four possible parents there), sperm donation and egg donation are currently worked out.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by cyn1c77 (928549)

        I find it incredibly offensive to say that women should be forced to condemn their children to suffer from a preventable disease,

        Then don't have kids. It's still an elective choice.

        or be prevented from bearing genetically-related children, simply because some people think the cure is "unnatural".

        By its very definition of how it's done is unnatural and the long term consequences to the gene pool unknown.

        How about you don't have kids? We don't need any more AC trolls in the world.

        We started messing with the "gene pool" when we started giving people things like glasses, surgery, antibiotics, and immunizations to enhance their lives.

        Most people will have children regardless. Your stance is effectively condemning those children to a diseased life.

        My elective choice would be to take all the people like you, ship them to an island that was devoid of any modern medicine, and let you "evolve" naturally. Enjoy dy

      • By its very definition of how it's done is unnatural and the long term consequences to the gene pool unknown.

        Humans are part of nature. There is literally nothing we can do that is "unnatural." Furthermore, what is "unnatural" is not necessarily bad; that's just a fallacy.

      • By its very definition of how it's done is unnatural and the long term consequences to the gene pool unknown.

        By that definition so is just about every medical treatment or procedure ever devised. Any treatment that cures someone and lets them live long enough to reproduce affects the gene pool this include vaccines, antibiotics etc. Indeed you could argue that this problem is itself unnatural since many people with genetic diseases would not live long enough to reproduce in the natural world. So, unless you want to argue that we are better off without any medicine we are already tampering with the gene pool and a

      • by kwbauer (1677400)

        So we should only allow fertilization via copulation and anything else ist verboten?

        Personally, I consider it a very unnatural act to go around sticking little needles into people and injecting things into them for the sole purpose of giving their immune systems a head start against a few diseases. You do understand that those needles and what they contain aren't grown on trees or vines, right?

    • Because this one procedure is the ONLY way for someone with this type of condition to have healthy children, right? I guess you're just pretending egg donation and adoption don't exist so you can climb on the high horse for a second?
      • by geekoid (135745)

        And? It's ANOTHER way to have children. Bonus, there children will be healthier to, and so.
        Clearly this woman want to have a child with her genes. It's almost like she's some sort of a mammal

        Just so you know, you are the one on the high horse. You might want to look up what that means.

    • by twotacocombo (1529393) on Thursday February 27, 2014 @04:06PM (#46362049)
      Or, you know, NOT having children also eliminates the perpetuation of a disease. All genetically-inherited diseases, in fact. Why some people think this planet is in such dire need of more inhabitants that they'd go to lengths such as these just blows my mind. Absolutely feel the need to raise a child? Please adopt. There are plenty of children out there that would love to have a permanent, loving home. Same goes for animals. Before we bring more life into this world, we need to address the suffering of those who are already here.
      • by Microlith (54737) on Thursday February 27, 2014 @04:12PM (#46362139)

        Or, you know, NOT having children also eliminates the perpetuation of a disease.

        Or we could solve the problem instead of simply going "oh you should just not have children."

        Why some people think this planet is in such dire need of more inhabitants that they'd go to lengths such as these just blows my mind.

        Because it's an inherent drive in most living creatures. Feel free to start with yourself, however.

        Before we bring more life into this world, we need to address the suffering of those who are already here.

        Addressing the suffering of those who are here has no bearing on bringing in more life, nor are they mutually exclusive.

        • I have no problem with things like this, but...

          Because it's an inherent drive in most living creatures. Feel free to start with yourself, however.

          Already have. Now, if only the unintelligent masses would follow. We really don't need anywhere close to 7 billion people on this planet.

          • by geekoid (135745)

            " if only the other unintelligent masses would follow."
            FIFY

            " We really don't need anywhere close to 7 billion people on this planet."
            based on..what?

            • FIFY

              Yeah, I never even saw that coming.

              based on..what?

              Based on simple logic. We have enough trash and orphans as it is.

      • by cayenne8 (626475)

        Absolutely feel the need to raise a child? Please adopt.

        Yeah, but if you do that, it is SO damned hard to get them to look like you as they grow up...

      • by fishybell (516991)
        This sidesteps the issue. Yes, adoption is an option for some, but not all. The cost and legal requirements can be quite high, whereas this is medical procedure to fix a disease (really prevent), potentially covered by insurance or a universal healthcare system. You're advocating the idea that those less affluent can only have genetically disease free kids if they themselves are free of genetic disease.
        • You're advocating the idea that those less affluent can only have genetically disease free kids if they themselves are free of genetic disease.

          No, I'm advocating that everyone take a step back and ask "does the world really need another mouth to feed?", regardless of genetic suitability. Deciding not to have a child because it may be afflicted by a genetically inherited condition, in my opinion, is a noble choice. Spending $$$ on a method to circumvent this natural limitation just so you can have a brand new little copy of yourself seems a bit selfish. The more diseases we cure, the more babies we have, the longer we extend natural lifespans, the

      • by kwbauer (1677400)

        Please post us the proof that you've been surgically sterilized so we can all relax, comfortable with the knowledge that you aren't going to be "bring[ing] more life into this world."

    • Caution when it comes to heritable changes should be the default mode. Thalidomide provides a good example of why "Sure, try it on unborn children and see what happens" should not be the default. But certainly TRIALS should be allowed if animal studies don't provide any reason to think we're going to create Parasite Eve or create new heritable diseases.
    • Sure... until you find out 400 years later that the new gene has a self destruct sequence.

      Or worse, patent law follows the trend of copyright law in the US and half the population ends up owing royalties for the genes they were born with.

      • by geekoid (135745)

        "until you find out 400 years later that the new gene has a self destruct sequence."
        MORBO: "THAT IS NOT HOW GENES WORK!"

        • We should keep Monsanto well out of the way, because they'd sneak such a thing in if they could.

    • It frees their lineage from the disease.

      It's a slippery slope. So we allow them to prevent this disease. What gets defined as a disease next? Genetic predisposition to heart disease? Sounds great. We'd probably allow it if we had already allowed them to deal with the disease being discussed here, right? And if heart disease, then why not genetic predispositions to high cholesterol as well? It only makes sense. What about cancers? Surely we'd deal with any susceptibilities to those too, right?

      But at a certain point you start to get into diseases t

    • by jxander (2605655)

      I find it shortsighted to believe that an experimental fertilization method that's never born a single child should be allowed without testing.

      I'm all about personal liberty, but safety needs to be a concern too. If the doctors can demonstrate that this method is at least as safe as normal IVF (safe for the parents AND potential child) then have at it, but until then, let's temper our excitement

      I'd also tread very carefully around what looks and sounds like a potential new form of eugenics.

      • I find it shortsighted to believe that an experimental fertilization method that's never born a single child should be allowed without testing.

        I'm all about personal liberty, but safety needs to be a concern too. If the doctors can demonstrate that this method is at least as safe as normal IVF (safe for the parents AND potential child) then have at it, but until then, let's temper our excitement

        I'd also tread very carefully around what looks and sounds like a potential new form of eugenics.

        Until I had my first child, it was quite the experiment. Lots of room for error too. But I suppose it is better to leave things to chance, and hope on that first ultrasound that everything looks to be developing properly.

    • by Noishkel (3464121)

      Well the only thing I'd personally worry about is if these changes result in stable and healthy genetics. I'm not really up on the latest in genetic research but I didn't know that we were at the point where science could move in to selectively excise 'bad' genes and insert health DNA. The last time I even looked into genetic engineering involved the science of GMO crops. And at that time there we just hammering random DNA into cells until they could get a cell that didn't automatically die.

      Maybe it work

  • you were looking for!

  • This new technology is an affront to our traditional three-parent conception model!
  • It really should be not a parent but a genetic information contributor. If it is parent they have an extra target for child support.

    However if they do make it parent then I want my probiotic yogurt maker listed as my parent and years of support payments. I am linking the bacteria are a large part of our component body to this notion that a supplier of genetic materials becomes financially liable for care.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      since probiotic yogurt does nothing, then you want have much of a case. IT's all dead before it gets to your intestine.

      • by Jhon (241832)

        "since probiotic yogurt does nothing, then you want have much of a case. IT's all dead before it gets to your intestine."

        Are you lying or just ignorant? Check out the research on the effects of probiotic yogurt on IBD. Just because the culture may not survive to the intestines does not mean it "does nothing".

        http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pm... [nih.gov]

        See? I can "stalk" you, too. The difference is that I done lie and spout off in ignorance.

  • a great opportunity for women like that.
    Also a great step forward to removing genetic diseases from the gene pool.

    • by slew (2918)

      Also a great step forward to removing genetic diseases from the gene pool.

      For some definition of genetic disease... Definitions are very important in this area...

      Historically, anything people didn't agree with was categorized as a disease. For example, being gay was once considered a potential genetic mental disorder/disease. Not to be too flip about it, it once had a strong potential to handicap you in life relative to your peers which could potentially shorten your lifespan. I imagine not everyone has migrated away from this view.

      Also, evolutionary, there have been times wh

  • No big deal (Score:4, Interesting)

    by wonkey_monkey (2592601) on Thursday February 27, 2014 @05:55PM (#46363351) Homepage

    My DNA is already a mis-mash of genes from millions of ancestors. What would one more matter?

    • I'm sure the folks at Monsanto were thinking the exact same thing. Once we hit a "brick wall" with our food stuff, we're going to have to go back to original seed stock. Possibly from the doomsday vault. Can't really do that with mammalian life.

      • Except for, if you think about it more than your knee can jerk, you'd realize that your argument is invalid here. Your biggest concern with the monsanto seed bank is it's mono-lineage and so we have less diversity. That is the opposite of a problem in the world with respect to the human gene pool.
  • I think there are some bird species with super efficient ATP generation due to superior mitochondria. I’d love to be able to replace all of mine with theirs.

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