A genetically engineered baby could be born in the UK before Christmas. The UK government has given a licence to Newcastle University to create three-parent embryos to combat mitochondrial diseases.
The UK’s fertility authority, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority(HFEA), had already announced in December that licences for the controversial procedure were to be granted on a case-by-case basis. It appears that a number of couples have applied for the procedure, so the University will have no trouble in enrolling patients.
Sally Cheshire, chair of the UK’s fertility authority, said: “I can confirm today that the HFEA has approved the first application by Newcastle Fertility at Life for the use of mitochondrial donation to treat patients. This significant decision represents the culmination of many years hard work by researchers, clinical experts, and regulators, who collectively paved the way for Parliament to change the law in 2015 to permit the use of such techniques.
“Patients will now be able to apply individually to the HFEA to undergo mitochondrial donation treatment at Newcastle, which will be life-changing for them, as they seek to avoid passing on serious genetic diseases to future generations.”
Critics described the move as “ethically reckless”. Mark Bhagwandin, of the pro-life charity Life, told the Daily Telegraph:
“We had hoped that the HFEA would have listened to the thousands of people who have expressed concern about three parent embryos. Instead it has ignored the alarm bells and approved a procedure which will alter the human genome. It is at the very least reckless and irresponsible given that we have absolutely no idea what the long term consequences are to us interfering with the human genome.
"Whilst we are deeply sympathetic to the plight of people with mitochondrial related diseases, the end does not always justify the means. Our understandable search for therapies to help overcome illness and disabilities must be done in an ethical way and balanced against the unconditional acceptance of all human beings, whatever differences they may have."
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