World’s first baby born with new “3 parent” technique

The world’s first baby has been born using a new “three person” fertility technique, New Scientist reveals. The five-month-old boy has the usual DNA from his mum and dad, plus a tiny bit of genetic code from a donor. According to critics, the procedure, carried out in Mexico, is tantamount to genetic modification of humans or even “playing God”. But supporters say it allows women with a particular type of genetic disease to have healthy children who are related

to them. The New Scientist magazine said the baby is now five months told. His parents

are Jordanians and the work was carried out by a team of experts from the US. The child’s mother has Leigh syndrome, a disorder that affects the nervous system and would have been passed on in her mitochondrial DNA. Although she is healthy, two of her children — a six-year-old girl and an eight-month-old baby —have died as a result of inheriting the disease. There are different ways of creating three-parent baby. The technique used by Dr John Zhang, of the New Hope Fertility Clinic in New York, involves taking the nucleus from one of the mother’s eggs

— containing her DNA — and implanting it into a donor egg that had its nucleus removed

but retaining the donor’s healthy mitochondrial DNA. Unlike ordinary DNA, mitochondrial

DNA provides power for the cell. Many scientists insist the term ‘three-parent baby’ is inaccurate as the significant DNA is still from two people. Zhang said as the technique

has not been approved in the US, the team went to Mexico. “To save lives is the ethical

thing to do,” he said. In 2003, Zhang and his team revealed they had used a different

technique to create three-parent babies, sparking international outrage. The UK parliament

voted to allow creation of “three-parent babies” in principle but regulators must still decide whether the technique is safe. Professor Bert Smeets, director of the Genome Centre at Maastricht University, said, “At last, the first child of a mother with a mtDNA mutation

is born after mitochondrial donation. The safety of the method had already been demonstrated by the Newcastle group in the UK and introduction into the clinic would only be a matter of time –

obviously, dependent on national regulation or the absence of it.” However, Dr Dusko Ilic of

King’s College London expressed caution. “By performing the treatment in Mexico, the team were not subject to stringent regulation. We have no way of knowing how skilfull or prepared they were, and may have been a risky thing to do.”

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