Parents-to-be may have a new fertility procedure to consider soon. In February, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gathered to discuss a new option that would involve combining the genetic material of three adults to create a baby that could be free of genetic defects. The proposed method is drawing major attention and has sparked a heated debate from both a scientific and ethical perspective.
At the February meeting, the FDA hosted a panel of experts who were asked to discuss current scientific capabilities and whether or not they believe the approach could be used on humans. To date, researchers in the state of Oregon have been successful in using the method with monkeys. No conclusive results or recommendations have been made.
This specific fertility procedure involves the manipulation of mitochondria, which are an essential part of the cell that converts energy. Mitochondria with defects can be passed on to the fetus, causing many types of health problems. During this procedure, those defective mitochondria are replaced with healthy mitochondria from a second woman. Those closest to the research indicate that this replacement can take place either before or after the egg has been fertilized.
This is not the first time that the cells of three people have been combined with the idea of creating a so-called designer baby. In 2001, researchers in New Jersey experimented with the idea of replacing cytoplasm cells around the egg. More than 17 babies were born using this method, though the FDA has since banned this fertility treatment unless special permission has been granted.
Proponents of the new mitochondria replacement method are pushing the FDA to give permission for it to be used in humans, without the need for further human testing. Regardless of their final decision, debate around the topic is likely to continue.
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