UK Government Votes in Favour of Three Person Embryo Law
The UK may become the first nation to allow IVF procedures that use genetic material from three different people.
The concept of using genetic material from multiple people is not new. However, there are restrictions that prevent these techniques from being used by IVF clinics. Many people feel that these restrictions are outdated and need to be removed, including the team at First Fertility.
Vote Helps to Position the UK as a Leader in IVF Treatments
The recent debate and subsequent vote may make the UK the first country to explicitly allow biological material from multiple people for the creation of healthy embryos. This process may help prevent various abnormalities and issues that keep many women from being able to conceive.
The vote occurred in the House of Commons and support from the MPs was significant. 382 MPs voted in favour of amending the Human Fertilization and Embryology Act 2008. Only 128 MPs voted against amending the act.
An additional vote is needed before the act can be amended. The next vote is expected later this year, which means that the first pregnancy involving biological material from three parents may occur by the end of the year. The first baby born from one of these treatments may be born sometime the following year.
If the laws are amended to allow genetic material from three parents, the UK will stand at the front lines of future IVF treatments. This may open the doors to similar treatments in other countries, such as Thailand.
Why is Multiple Genetic Material Needed?
To understand the importance of this vote, it may help to understand why multiple genetic materials may be needed to produce healthy embryos and avoid mitochondrial defects and abnormalities.
Most cells in your body contain mitochondria. While the mitochondria serve several functions, their most important role is to break down nutrients to create energy for the cells. Defective mitochondria can increase the likelihood of a variety of cellular abnormalities.
Mitochondrial mutations are passed down from the mom and may result in mitochondrial abnormalities in the child. The most common of these abnormalities include brain damage, blindness, deafness, diabetes, and heart failure.
Obtaining genetic material from three parents may allow IVF clinics to bypass these abnormalities. The new treatment still includes biological material from both parents. However, mitochondria with no defects are taken from a healthy female donor. The healthy mitochondria replace the abnormal mitochondria in the mother’s cells.
Using healthy mitochondria that is taken from a healthy person does not mean that the child has three parents. In fact, the child will inherit hardly any genetics from the third donor. The biological material that is collected is only about one-tenth of a percent of the total DNA that ends up becoming a baby.
While only a small amount of material is taken from the donor, it has a profound impact on the fertility process. With the three-parent IVF treatment, the nucleus is taken from an egg and inserted in the cytoplasm from another egg with no nucleus. The egg that is created from this process is then fertilized with sperm.
Not Everyone Agrees with Amending the Laws
The DNA taken from the third donor is only a small part of the baby. However, the small percent of genetic material has not stopped people from criticizing this treatment. There are many people who have ethical concerns about the three-parent ruling.
128 MPs ruled against amending the law, and there is a segment of the population that agrees. These people worry about the possibility of so-called designer children, allowing parents to pick and choose the DNA that is used to create a baby. However, these concerns are mostly based on science fiction and misconceptions.
The IVF technique that was approved by the MPs is not new. IVF clinics have been using similar methods for the past two decades.
For example, clinics in the United States have used similar techniques to avoid mitochondrial abnormalities. The babies who were born from the first treatments are now grown. They exhibit no signs of negative health issues from the treatments used by their mothers to get pregnant.
Objections to the Three Parents IVF Procedures
As mentioned, the objections to these treatments mostly revolve around the issue of genetic modification. The people that object to the treatments believe that this will lead to the ability to select the traits that parents want for their babies. However, there are additional concerns.
Some people object to these treatments due to their religious or philosophical beliefs. For example, some people believe that these IVF procedures are not natural and go against nature.
There are also people who are worried that the genetic modifications will get passed onto future generations. While a female baby that is born from these treatments may grow up to give birth and pass on her mitochondria, the female is less likely to have mitochondrial abnormalities.
Another objection is based on the idea that disease is a natural part of life. Diseases occur throughout nature, and trying to modify DNA to overcome these diseases may lead to changes in nature.
The people who object to these treatments are overlooking several key facts. These treatments have been used for at least two decades. Denying the right to use these treatments seems unfair, which is why the IVF specialists at First Fertility have been promoting these concepts for many years.
Most People Support Changes to IVF Laws
Those that oppose the three parents ruling may not realize that they are also opposing IVF treatments. Luckily, most people support these changes.
At First Fertility Bangkok, we are proud to support these treatments. We also offer additional IVF treatments, such as genetic diagnosis and the selection of the gender of your baby.
There will always be people who object to the latest scientific breakthroughs, especially when these breakthroughs involve fertility. However, there will always be people who appreciate these advances and welcome the benefits that they provide, including women seeking a more effective IVF treatment.