Designer baby warning as embryos are made using TWO women and one man by Oregon scientists

  • Procedure would swap the nucleus of a  mother’s egg containing mutated genes into a donor’s
  • The donor’s normal mitochondria replaces the  mother’s defective mitochondria containing mutated DNA
  • Donor’s genes would amount to 1 per cent of the embryo’s genes and not affect the  way a child looks
  • About 1 in every 5,000 children inherits a  disease caused by defective mitochondrial genes

By Associated Press

PUBLISHED:14:31 EST, 24  October 2012| UPDATED:15:53 EST, 24 October 2012

Scientists in Oregon have created embryos  with genes from one man and two women, using a controversial technique that  could one day be used to prevent babies from inheriting certain rare incurable  diseases.

The researchers at Oregon Health &  Sciences University said they are not using the embryos to produce children, and  it is not clear when or even if this technique will be put to use.

The ability has already stirred a debate over  its risks and ethics in Britain, where scientists did similar work a few years  ago.

Exchanging DNA: Swapping an embryo's mutated genes with a donor's, seen leaving right with a white mass of DNA, researchers said the technique would prevent babies from inheriting incurable disease, a red laser used in the procedure seenExchange: Swapping an embryo’s mutated genes with a  donor’s, seen leaving right with a white mass of DNA, researchers said the  technique would prevent babies from inheriting incurable disease, a red laser  used in the procedure seen

The British experiments, reported in 2008,  led to headlines about the possibility someday of babies with three  parents.

The DNA from the second woman amounts to less  than 1 per cent of the embryo’s genes, and it isn’t the sort that makes a child  look like Mom or Dad. The procedure is simply a way of replacing some defective  genes that sabotage the normal workings of cells.

The British government is asking for public  comment on the technology before it decides whether to allow its use in the  future. One concern it cites is whether such DNA alteration could be an early  step down a slippery slope toward ‘designer babies’ – ordering up, say, a  petite, blue-eyed girl or tall, dark-haired boy.

Questions have also arisen about the safety  of the technique, not only for the baby who results from the egg, but also for  the child’s descendants.

Method: Donated embryos, some seen here being frozen for storage, could be used with mothers wanting to give birth to babies without known mutated genes carried by the motherMethod: Donated embryos, some seen here being frozen for  storage, could be used with mothers wanting to give birth to babies without  known mutated genes carried by the mother

In June, an influential British bioethics  group concluded that the technology would be ethical to use if proven safe and  effective. An expert panel in Britain said in 2011 that there was no evidence  the technology was unsafe but urged further study.

Laurie Zoloth, a bioethicist at Northwestern  University in Evanston, Ill., said in an interview that safety problems might  not show up for several generations. She said she hopes the United States will  follow Britain’s lead in having a wide-ranging discussion of the  technology.

While the kind of diseases it seeks to fight  can be terrible, ‘this might not be the best way to address it,’ Zoloth  said.

Over the past few years, scientists have  reported that such experiments produced healthy monkeys and that tests in human  eggs showed encouraging results. The Oregon scientists reported on Wednesday  that they have produced about a dozen early human embryos and found the  technique is highly effective in replacing DNA.

Worry: Some worry the procedure could allow mothers to pick and choose their children's DNA, with the procedure undertaken at Oregon Health & Science University, pictured, after started then paused in LondonWorry: Some worry the procedure could allow mothers to  pick and choose their children’s DNA, with the procedure undertaken at Oregon  Health & Science University, pictured, after started then paused in  London

The genes they want to replace aren’t the  kind most people think of, which are found in the nucleus of cells and influence  traits such as eye color and height. Rather, these genes reside outside the  nucleus in energy-producing structures called mitochondria. These genes are  passed along only by mothers, not fathers.

About 1 in every 5,000 children inherits a  disease caused by defective mitochondrial genes. The defects can cause many rare  diseases with a host of symptoms, including strokes, epilepsy, dementia,  blindness, deafness, kidney failure and heart disease.

The new technique, if approved someday for  routine use, would allow a woman to give birth to a baby who inherits her  nucleus DNA but not her mitochondrial DNA.

Here’s how it would work:

Hopes: It's believed that this research, along with other efforts, will pave the way for future clinical trials in human subjects with about 1 in every 5,000 children inheriting a disease caused by defective mitochondrial genesHopes: It’s believed that this research, along with  other efforts, will pave the way for future clinical trials in human subjects  with about 1 in every 5,000 children inheriting a disease caused by defective  mitochondrial genes

Doctors would need unfertilized eggs from the  patient and a healthy donor. They would remove the nucleus DNA from the donor  eggs and replace it with nucleus DNA from the patient’s eggs. So, they would end  up with eggs that have the prospective mother’s nucleus DNA, but the donor’s  healthy mitochondrial DNA.

In a report published online Wednesday by the  journal Nature, Shoukhrat Mitalipov and others at OHSU report transplanting  nucleus DNA into 64 unfertilized eggs from healthy donors. After fertilization,  13 eggs showed normal development and went on to form early  embryos.

The researchers also reported that four  monkeys born in 2009 from eggs that had DNA transplants remain healthy, giving  some assurance on safety.

Mitalipov said in an interview that the  researchers hope to get federal approval to test the procedure in women, but  that current restrictions on using federal money on human embryo research stand  in the way of such studies.

The research was funded by the university and  the Leducq Foundation in Paris.

Dr. Douglass Turnbull of Newcastle University  in Britain, whose team has transplanted DNA between eggs using a different  technique, called the new research ‘very important and encouraging’ in showing  that such transplants could work.

But ‘clearly, safety is an issue’ with either  technique if it is applied to humans, he said

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2222622/Oregon-Health–Sciences-University-Scientists-swap-embryos-DNA-using-women-man.html#ixzz2AHiczN3J Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

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