Public views sought on 'three-parent IVF' to prevent disease

20 January 2012

A public consultation is to seek public views on new in vitro fertilisation (IVF) techniques involving the use of genetic material from three adults intended to create embryos free from mitochondrial diseases.

The regulatory Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has been charged jointly by the UK Secretary of State for Health and the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills to conduct this consultation.
The HFEA last year called for more information on the safety of this controversial technique (see previous news), which avoids the transmission of genetic mitochondrial diseases by using donor egg cells with healthy mitochondria but no nucleus, combined with the nucleus from the affected woman and fertilised by the man’s sperm. Resultant embryos have a small amount of genetic material from the female donor as well as the two parents. Research at Newcastle University, funded by the Wellcome Trust, will assess safety.
Meanwhile the consultation, to begin this spring, will determine how happy the general public is with the new technique which, though having to potential to prevent very serious disease, also raises some ethical concerns. David Willetts, minister for universities and science, said: "Scientists have made an important and potentially life-saving discovery in the prevention of mitochondrial disease…However, as with all developments in cutting-edge science, it is vital that we to listen to the public's views before we consider any change in the law allowing it to be used".

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