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UK becomes first country to approve three-parent in vitro fertilization

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - JANUARY 22:  Editors Note: This image may have been digitally manipulated for confidentiality to remove any patient identidy data. A mother tends to her one-day-old baby daughter inside an incubator in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Birmingham Women's Hospital on January 22, 2015 in Birmingham, England. Birmingham Womens Hospital provides a range of health services to women and their families using the latest scientific procedures and care. Last year the maternity unit delivered over 8,000 babies, cared for 50,000 patients and performed over 3000 procedures in its state of the art theatres. The hospital is also home to world renowned research  scientists, fertility clinic and the national sperm bank.  (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
A mother tends to her one-day-old baby daughter inside an incubator in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Birmingham Women's Hospital on January 22, 2015 in Birmingham, England.

Members of the British House of Commons passed a measure that makes the U.K. the first country in the world to allow three-parent in vitro fertilization (IVF) to families who don’t want to worry about passing on incurable genetic diseases to their offspring.

Members of the British House of Commons passed a measure that makes the U.K. the first country in the world to allow three-parent in vitro fertilization (IVF) to families who don’t want to worry about passing on incurable genetic diseases to their offspring. The British House of Lords, the other house in British Parliament, will still have to vote on the measure.

The specific technique that is being debated is called mitochondrial donation. It is still in the research stage in the U.S. and U.K. and involves removing faulty mitochondrial DNA during the fertilization process that could cause things like brain disorders, heart problems, and muscular dystrophy. It’s often referred to as “three-parent IVF” because the child would have DNA from a mother, a father, and a female donor.

Supporters of the technique say it will allow parents, especially those who are aware of genetic diseases they could pass on to their offspring, the chance to have a child that will live without pain or suffering. Opponents are concerned that there hasn’t been enough research and testing done, and that it would allow “designer babies” because the technique involves planting genetically-enhanced embryos into women.

Do you think this technique should be approved? What are the advantages and disadvantages of this procedure being approved? Should people be allowed to have a “designer baby” if they want one and can afford it?

Guests:

Dieter Egli, Ph.D., senior research fellow at the New York Stem Cell Foundation, a non-profit organization working to accelerate cures for the major diseases of our time through stem cell research.

Marcy Darnovsky, Ph.D., executive director of the Center for Genetics and Society, a nonprofit organization working to encourage responsible uses and effective societal governance of human genetic, reproductive, and biomedical technologies.

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