Embryo created from three parents

A human embryo has been created from DNA from three parents by British scientists.

The experiment has produced IVF embryos from two women and one man as part of a research project on inheritable diseases.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports the technique is being developed in the hope of eventually helping women with diseases of the mitochondria to avoid passing on their genetic defects to their children.

But critics argue the research is a worrying step towards creating "designer" babies.

Southern Cross Bioethics Institute in Adelaide director Greg Pike said the ethical implications would be profound if the new technique was ever used.

"The possibility of having three biological parents is an entirely new scenario which constitutes experimentation with human life," Dr Pike said.

The creation of embryos with more than two genetic parents is banned in Australia but the British experiments, which were reported in London's Daily Telegraph were approved there.

The Newcastle team hopes the new "mitochondria transplant" technique, which they tested using 10 IVF embryos that were only allowed to develop for six days, could eventually eradicate the diseases.The idea is that couples could create an IVF embryo with their own sperm and egg.

Then their nuclear DNA would be removed and implanted in an egg donated by a woman who does not have mitochondrial disease. Her nuclear DNA would be removed from the egg so the child would only have nuclear DNA that influences appearance and characteristics from the real parents.

Designer children in conflict with Christianity
Terminating a life because of a particular disease or disability is never in accord with Christian thinking, Sydney Archdiocese Marriage and Family Office director Chris Meney says.

The Catholic Weekly reports Mr Meney said people should remember that every one is never completely free from the risk of developing a serious disease.

"We should reject language and encroaching norms that align so-called abnormality or impairment with unacceptability," Mr Meney said.

"Experts say the genetic testing of embryos at risk of developing deadly diseases is not foolproof, and that all parents should be extensively counselled on the risks."

Mr Meney added parents should not reject some lives so as to ensure a "custom made" child who accords with some idealised specification.

Three parents produce one embryo
(Sydney Morning Herald 06/02/08)

"Custom made" children in conflict with Christianity (Catholic Weekly 03/02/08)

6 Feb 2008