Skip to main content
In Brief

UK Government Backs 3-Parent IVF

Adorable four-month-old baby
A four-month-old baby. (Image credit: <a href="http://www.shutterstock.com/gallery-439087p1.html">glayan</a>, <a href="http://www.shutterstock.com">Shutterstock</a>)

The United Kingdom plans to allow a controversial new form of in vitro fertilization (IVF) that would lead to the creation of babies with DNA from three parents.

Advocates of the technique say it could eliminate some cases of life-threatening diseases caused by defective DNA. But critics think it's a slippery slope toward genetic modification resulting in the creation of "designer" babies.

One in 6,500 babies have defective mitochondria (the energy-production centers inside cells), which can cause muscle weakness, blindness, heart problems and even death. Because mitochondria have their own DNA separate from the cell's genome, researchers can take the mother's and father's DNA and put them in a cell with a third person's genetic material: healthy mitochondrial DNA from a donor.

Newcastle University in England is pioneering three-person IVF efforts, and the UK Parliament is expected to vote regulations for the technique in 2014. The UK would be the first country to approve the contested method, the BBC reports

Tanya Lewis
Tanya was a staff writer for Live Science from 2013 to 2015, covering a wide array of topics, ranging from neuroscience to robotics to strange/cute animals. She received a graduate certificate in science communication from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and a bachelor of science in biomedical engineering from Brown University. She has previously written for Science News, Wired, The Santa Cruz Sentinel, the radio show Big Picture Science and other places. Tanya has lived on a tropical island, witnessed volcanic eruptions and flown in zero gravity (without losing her lunch!). To find out what her latest project is, you can visit her website.