World's first "three-parent" baby is born


Could the age-old phrase that it takes two to make a baby may soon be left in the past, thanks to the news, revealed this week by the New Scientist, that the world's first 3-person baby has been born?

Currently, this controversial technique has only been legally approved for use in the UK, but it's been reported that this baby boy was born in Mexico, supported by a US-based medical team.

How does this new fertility technique work?

There are few ways that the "three-parent" technique can be done. The UK-approved method involves fertilising both the mother's egg and a donor egg with the father's sperm. Before the eggs start dividing into early-stage embryos, each nucleus is removed. The nucleus from the donor's fertilised egg is discarded and replaced by that from the mother's fertilised egg.

However, this technique wasn't used in the fertility procedure for this birth - due to their Muslim faith the mother and father were opposed to the destruction of two embryos. Instead, the nucleus from one of the mother's eggs was inserted into a donor egg that had had its own nucleus removed. The resulting egg - with nuclear DNA from the mother and mitochondrial DNA (DNA which is separate from the rest of our DNA which carries just 37 genes that are passed down to us from our mothers) from a donor - was then fertilised with the father's sperm.

Why is this new technique being used?

The "three-parent" technique enables parents who have the ability to pass on rare genetic mutations to their offspring to have healthy babies. In this case, the boy's mother carries genes for Leigh's Syndrome, a fatal disorder that affects the developing nervous system. The couple previously had two children, who both died as a result of this disorder.

What's an expert UK view about this birth?

Commenting to The Guardian newspaper about this birth, Doug Turnbull, a neurology professor at Newcastle University who pioneered mitochondrial transfer in the UK, said the technique offered hope to mothers who carried mitochondrial DNA mutations.

"There have been extensive discussions in the UK to ensure that families with mitochondrial disease get the best possible advice about their reproductive options and that any new IVF-based technique is appropriately regulated and funded. This abstract gives very little information about the technique used, the follow up of the child or the ethical approval process."

Sources:

1. https://www.newscientist.com/article/2107219-exclusive-worlds-first-baby-born-with-new-3-parent-technique/

2. https://www.theguardian.com/science/2016/sep/27/worlds-first-baby-born-using-dna-from-three-parents