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Three-Parent Babies May Soon Be a Reality in Britain

Mar 20, 2013 08:13 PM EDT

Britain is moving closer to becoming the first country to create babies with three genetic parents via IVF in order to defeat inherited diseases.

The Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has advised the government that there is no evidence the advanced forms of IVF were unsafe, but said further research was still necessary, according to the BBC.

HFEA began a public discussion of the topic at the government's request last year.

"Although some people have concerns about the safety of these techniques, we found that they trust the scientific experts and the regulator to know when it is appropriate to make them available to patients," Lisa Jardine, chair of the group, said in a statement Wednesday.

Critics were quick to react to the decision, saying that three-person babies will be a breach of ethics, adding that there were already safe methods like egg donation to allow people to have children without mitochondria defects.

Professor Lisa Jardine, chair of the HFEA, told a press conference: "This is advice, this is not a decision we can make. It is now up to parliament to consider whether this technique is permitted in treatment.

"We have no idea when this will be available. It's likely to be years - it is not a short timeframe. We took the public temperature and there is broad support to give families at risk a chance of having a healthy child."

The technique would give a baby DNA from a father, a mother as well as a female egg donor, to eradicate mitochondrial disorders which are debilitating and fatal. Children born after the procedures would possess nuclear DNA inherited from their parents plus mitochondrial DNA from a female egg donor.

Mitochondria are rod-shaped power plants in cells that supply energy. They contain their own DNA which is only passed onto offspring by mothers. One in 200 children are born with a mitochondrial disease each year in the UK, and an estimated 6,000 adults are believed to be affected by the conditions.

The new techniques result in the damaged mDNA being replaced by a healthy version supplied by the female donor. In the public consultation, 56% of those questioned said they were "very" or "fairly" positive about techniques which could prevent mitochondrial disease by altering genetic make-up during IVF.

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