Tuesday, April 2, 2013

IVF experimentation and three parent babies

There is no doubt that once a society accepts the separation of the unitive from the procreative aspect of sexuality it opens the door for other abuses.
The abuses associated with in vitro fertilization (IVF) industry are well documented see my BLOG posts of February 18th 2010, August 3rd2010, February 14, 2011 and November 29th 2011.

Recent media headlines take this to an entirely new level by referring to the bringing into being of three parent babies and suggest that this is not only a possibility but simply a matter of time, it also suggests that a recent UK survey reveals support for this kind radical IVF therapy and that Mitochondrial replacement could help families at risk of a certain class of genetic disorders.

Most people in the UK, according to the reports, would be happy to see the law changed to allow a radical form of gene therapy on the IVF embryos of women in danger of passing on mitochondrial disease to their babies – a potentially severe and fatal metabolic disorder.

An exhaustive survey of public attitudes to the replacement of an affected mother’s mitochondria – the tiny “power packs” of cells – with those from an egg donor has found widespread support for the technique.

A series of public consultations on mitochondrial replacement, which will result in IVF babies effectively inheriting genetic information from three biological parents, has found that most people would support its legalisation in order to help families at risk of the genetic disorder.

“We’ve found that there is broad support for permitting mitochondria replacement to give families at risk of mitochondrial disease the chance of having a healthy child,” said Professor Lisa Jardine, the chair of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), which was charged by the Government to investigate public attitudes to the technique.

“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,” Professor Jardine said.

David King, director of the pressure group Human Genetics Alert, criticised the HFEA for ignoring the potential risks associated with the technique, which has had only limited testing on laboratory animals and is not medically practised anywhere in the world.

“These techniques go far beyond anything existing in both invasiveness to the embryo and complexity so it’s not surprising that they pose serious health risks to the child, risks that the HFEA refuses to properly address,” Dr King said.

Mitochondrial replacement involves fusing the egg-cell nucleus of the affected mother with an egg cell from an unaffected donor. The donor egg has its own nucleus and its complement of chromosomes removed, but retains the donor’s healthy mitochondria – which have their own DNA to control energy use within the cell.