MPs say yes to three-person babies (UK)

BBC News 3 February 2015
MPs have voted in favour of the creation of babies with DNA from two women and one man, in an historic move.

The UK is now set to become the first country to introduce laws to allow the creation of babies from three people.

In a free vote in the Commons, 382 MPs were in favour and 128 against the technique that stops genetic diseases being passed from mother to child.

During the debate, ministers said the technique was “light at the end of a dark tunnel” for families.

A further vote is required in the House of Lords. It everything goes ahead then the first such baby could be born next year.

Proponents said the backing was “good news for progressive medicine” but critics say they will continue to fight against the technique that they say raises too many ethical and safety concerns

In the Commons debate, Public Health Minister Jane Ellison told the House: “This is a bold step for parliament to take, but it is a considered and informed step. “This is world leading science within a highly respected regulatory regime. “And for the many families affected, this is light at the end of a very dark tunnel.” Fiona Bruce, the MP for Congleton, countered: “[This] will be passed down generations, the implications of this simply cannot be predicted. “But one thing is for sure, once this alteration has taken place, as someone has said, once the gene is out of the bottle, once these procedures that we’re asked to authorise today go ahead, there will be no going back for society.”

The debate in Commons also repeatedly struggled with whether the move would constitute “genetic modification”. Robert Flello, who represents Stoke-on-Trent South, said he feared “families will be let down tragically” due to the uncertainties in the technique and that society would be “up in arms” if this was a proposal for genetically modified crops.

Last week the Catholic and Anglican Churches in England said the idea was not safe or ethical, not least because it involved the destruction of embryos. Other groups, including Human Genetics Alert, say the move would open the door to further genetic modification of children in the future – so-called designer babies, genetically modified for beauty, intelligence or to be free of disease.

Three-parent babies explained in six questions: How does it work and who objects?  
The Independent 3 February 2015
What are the objections?
Some people are opposed on religious or ethical grounds, particularly with pro-nuclear transfer technique which involves creating and then destroying a fertilised egg in order to treat another embryo. The scientific objections come down to safety, which is why germline modification was made illegal in the first place. Some fear that we do not know enough about “epigenetic” interactions between the mitochondrial genes and the nuclear genes. Others believe that there will be inevitable “carry over” of defective mitochondria from the affected mother’s fertilised egg to the donor egg. These mutant mitochondria could multiply during embryonic development to cause disease, perhaps in way we do not yet understand. This is why, they say, we need to do more research before allowing it to be used on people.

Who are the big players in this debate?
The Anglican church and the Roman Catholic Church are publicly opposed, as are pro-life groups. However, there are several senior scientists who have questioned the safety of the technique as it stands. Most would be happy to see it legalised in Britain but still want a lot more research, particularly on primates, before it is introduced as a clinical procedure.