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US Panel Greenlights Creation of ‘Three-Person’ Embryos

The US National Academy of Medicine is looking to the US Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) to approve clinical trials to transfer DNA from healthy human eggs to diseased embryos.


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This controversial gene-therapy technique involves replacing an embryo’s energy-producing mitochondria with a healthy mitochondria from a second woman. The goal here is to prevent diseases from being transmitted to future children.

However, the FDA is hesitant about this procedure due to the safety of mitochondrial replacement, and the psychological and social implications of children with three genetic parents.

Reports indicates that the academy panel suggests limiting the tests of mitochondrial replacement to male embryos as a safety precaution. Male offspring would not be able to pass their modified mitochondria to future generations, because a child inherits its mitochondria from its mother. It also outlines several additional steps to monitor the safety of mitochondrial replacement. These include following the children made by the technique for years and sharing the resulting data on their health.

The advisory panel says that, if mitochondrial replacement is proven safe in male offspring, it could be expanded to female embryos.

On the other side of the world, the United Kingdom approved mitochondrial replacement last year with no restrictions on the sex of the modified embryo. Some ethicist who advised the UK government on the implications of mitochondrial replacement argued that the risks of the technique are poorly understood, but others disagreed with the questions regarding the implications of the procedure, and it went through.

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