by Shiraa Noumbissie-Nzefa
Are you applying to university for next semester? Perhaps you may even be thinking of pursuing your studies in a scientific field, such as genetics. Whether this is your case or not, you might be surprised to learn that the beginning of the new academic year may coincide with the birth of the first official babies with three parents.
Indeed, the British Commons voted on last February 3rd 382 against and 128 in favour of authorizing this procedure that would give rise to the addition of a third DNA sample to the embryo.
Why would one even bother to undergo such a procedure, you wonder? Well, contrary to what some may think, it is not only for the personal enjoyment of mad scientists. This method developed in Newcastle, England, has the potential of saving more than a hundred newborns each year.
In order to do so, it would replace the mother’s diseased mitochondria with a healthy one from a donor. As such, the mother’s nucleus would be placed in the donor’s healthy egg, then impregnated by the father’s sperm so that the diseased mitochondria is no longer present. Indeed, the cellular energy factory that is the mitochondria is always passed down by the mother only. As such, women with degenerative diseases transmitted through the mitochondria such as brain damage, muscle wasting, heart failure, and blindness, have legitimate worries concerning the viability of their possible offsprings.
However, to be honest, one shouldn’t exactly talk about three parents, as it is not entirely accurate. Reproductive etymologist Dr. Gillian Lockwood best describes this misconception by saying: “The biggest problem is that this has been described as threeparent IVF [in vitro fertilization]. In fact, it is 2.001-parent IVF.”
Indeed, as only the egg is taken from the donor, this procedure ensures that the baby will receive less than 0.1 percent of DNA from an anonymous donor, while the rest of his or her genetic material will come from the parental unit.
However, in the face of such an unbelievable scientific feat, opinions are divided. While such a decision is considered a godsend by parents like Sharon Bernardi, who lost all seven of her children to mitochondrial disease, others argue that it may lead to a “future of designer babies”.
As the decision has already been taken in England, all we can do is wait and see…