Three parent IVF babies: all you want to know!

Three parent IVF babies: all you want to know!

Conceiving naturally no doubt is the best route as it does not subject the couple through any stress neither are they emotionally and financially boggled down. However some couples do face challenges, but with the advancements in fertility science today they undergo advanced treatments as the last resort.

What is three parent IVF baby?

More accurately known as mitochondrial manipulation, is a fertility treatment where the embryo is created by the means of genetic (DNA) material from three people, that is, both parents and an egg donor.

Falling back to the normal conception process, the fertilized embryo is a mixture of nuclear DNA from both parents. This DNA carries the genes which are responsible for the traits of a person. Furthermore the egg has the replica copy of the mitochondrial DNA of the mother. And in case the mother’s mitochondrial DNA is malfunctioning, it can lead to harsh or fatal illness in the baby.

Therefore, the three-parent baby-making, is a method whereby the unhealthy mitochondrial DNA associated with deadly illness which leads to damaging the brain, failure of the heart, blindness, cystic fibrosis and muscular dystrophy— from the mothers egg is replaced with a healthy one, that is, the donors egg. Hence it is also known as mitochondria donation.

This fertility treatment experimentation involving the use of a donor egg and egg and sperm of the genetic parents first began in US in 1990’s. Recently, the UK government has lent support for ‘three-parent babies’ or mitochondrial replacement, becoming the first country in the world. This fertility treatment is likely to be available within a span of two years, with the objective of battling the devastating effects of mitochondrial disease.

Who will benefit using this technique?

Currently, three parent IVF is for females known to have rare defect in their mitochondrial DNA. This defect can be checked via genetic testing. Such women with defective mitochondrial will have incurable mitochondrial disease passed on to the baby. And the disease attacks the liver, heart and all other organs of the body. The child will survive for a very short span and often not live to adulthood.

Currently, women with such defect have been advised IVF using donor eggs or adoption as a fertility option. But three parent IVF will lubricate the chances to have a healthy child as well as genetically related. Also with the help of this technique future generations can be prevented from mitochondrial defects too.

Issues and debates surrounding the three parent IVF babies

Critiques of this technique on the other hand opine the fact that altering the genetic material in the egg might pave the way to “designer babies,” where the eye colour or other traits are chosen and pre-planned. They also point out whether it is dangerous or not if the parent-donor DNA does not mix well.

Few fertility experts feel that a foreign type of DNA could result in enduring birth defects of its own kind or other hitches but again this is refuted as there is enough scientific evidence which proves it to be safe.

Supporters have enough backing in favour of this technique as it is for the good of the baby and it is to create a healthy and a live one rather than one with complications and where survival is threatened.

Furthermore the technique of three-parent IVF does not modify the nuclear genes that define the appearance. Mitochondria behave like batteries, providing the energy that bodies need to develop aptly, so switching or replacing unhealthy mitochondria for healthy by no means “designs” a baby. It only provides energy to the embryo which is needed to develop. In fact mitochondrial transfer does not even touch upon the DNA that determines physical traits.

To conclude, even IVF once evoked similar controversy as three parent IVF babies today!