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.
Live Science newsletter
Stay up to date on the latest science news by signing up for our Essentials newsletter.