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Britain set for historic vote on ‘three-parent’ babies

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A doctor performs in-vitro fertilization. Britain could become the first country in the world to allow the creation of IVF babies with DNA from three parents/AFP

A doctor performs in-vitro fertilization. Britain could become the first country in the world to allow the creation of IVF babies with DNA from three parents/AFP

LONDON, United Kingdom, Feb 3 – Britain could become the first country in the world Tuesday to allow the creation of babies with DNA from three people in a move that has divided Britons and pitted campaigners against religious leaders.

Lawmakers in parliament are set to vote on mitochondrial DNA donation techniques for in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) aimed at preventing serious inherited diseases being passed on from mother to son.

Under the proposed change to the laws on IVF, as well as receiving the usual “nuclear” DNA from its mother and father, the embryo would also include a small amount of healthy so-called mDNA from a woman donor.

“Today marks a historic day for the future of modern medicine as parliament debates whether the UK should become the first country to allow mitochondrial donation to be used in IVF treatment,” Sally Davies, Chief Medical Officer for England, wrote in the Daily Telegraph.

The change could apply to up to 2,500 women of reproductive age in Britain with hereditary mitochondrial diseases but opponents say it opens the way to the possibility of “designer babies” in future.

Mitochondrial DNA (mDNA) is passed through the mother and mitochondrial diseases cause symptoms ranging from poor vision to diabetes and muscle wasting.

Mitochondria are structures in cells which generate the energy that allows the human body to function.

Health officials estimate around 125 babies are born with the mutations in Britain every year.

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