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10 May, 2023 13:06

First ‘three-parent’ baby born in the UK

A pioneering ‘test tube’ treatment aims to eliminate hereditary illnesses in newborns
First ‘three-parent’ baby born in the UK

A baby has been born with the DNA of three people for the first time in the UK, following the use of a pioneering form of in vitro fertilization (IVF) – sometimes referred to as a ‘test tube babies’ technique. The news has been confirmed by Britain’s fertility regulator, The Guardian newspaper reported on Tuesday.

The publication, which says it sourced the news through a freedom-of-information request, could not publish more specific data such as when the child was born and its current health status, for reasons of medical confidentiality.

The procedure, which is known as mitochondrial donation treatment (MDT), combines tissues from the eggs of a female donor to create IVF embryos free from hereditary illnesses that would potentially be passed to a child during a conventional pregnancy.

These embryos are combined with sperm and eggs from the biological parents, with the resulting baby containing the DNA signatures of three people – its parents and the female donor. The biological parents contribute more than 99.8% of the baby’s DNA, which controls key characteristics such as personality, as well as eye and hair color. Around 37 genes can be directly traced to the donor.

“MDT offers families with severe inherited mitochondrial illness the possibility of a healthy child,” Peter Thompson of the UK fertility regulator Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority (HFEA) told The Guardian. “These are still early days for MDT and the HFEA continues to review clinical and scientific developments.” 

HFEA added in The Guardian report that “less than five” babies have so far been born using the procedure. The first known MDT birth occurred in the US in 2016.

In 2015, the UK became the first country to approve the use of MDT following a vote in the House of Commons. This came amid a fierce ethical debate led by some politicians and religious groups as to the ethics of green-lighting medical procedures which produce so-called “designer babies.” The procedure also gave rise to claims of babies being born with “three parents.” The first MDT cases were authorized in the UK in 2018.

Then-Prime Minister David Cameron addressed concerns at the time following the vote to approve the treatment, saying that “we’re not playing god here, we’re just making sure that two parents who want a healthy baby can have one.”