How would you react when a neighbor says that their baby has been conceived with 3 parents? You’d surely want more details! The medical community reacted the same way when American scientists shared that they’ve been able to conceive a 3-parent baby, definitely the world’s first!
Shock or Amazement?
The technique is controversial for sure, but the experts responsible for the medical advancement are now sharing the reasons behind this new technique and what made them decide to go forth with it. Just to be clear, a 3-parent-baby means that the baby was conceived using biological material from 3 individuals.
Although global health officials are viewing the scientific milestone with skeptical eyes, the scientists responsible for the technique shared that they’re keeping an optimistic outlook. In a press release, the technique’s lead author Dr. John Zhang shared that their brilliant use of technology is exciting for mankind.
Dr. Zhang’s paper was published in the journal Reproductive BioMedicine. His team shared how they helped Jordanian parents to get pregnant with a healthy baby boy earlier this year even though he has a high risk of inheriting DNA for Leigh syndrome. Leigh syndrome is a severe disorder of the neurological system that usually kills those affected within a few hours of birth.
The development is abuzz with controversy as the boy’s parents are refusing to allow a DNA test on the child unless it is a medical necessity. It should be noted that Dr. Zhang and his team have no idea about how the baby will fare later on in life or if there are any long-term negative effects from their innovation.
Answering How and Why
Dr. Zhang’s team decided to break their silence as to why they did what they did and how they pulled it off. They shared that the boy’s mother already lost two babies to Leigh syndrome because she’s a carrier of the genetic disorder. The study also revealed that about 25% of her mitochondria pass on the genes responsible for the disorder.
In light of the above, the team used a new technique called MRT or Mitochondrial Replacement Therapy. This meant that the team took out the nucleus of a healthy donor egg and inserted it to the mother’s egg cell to negate or cancel out the risk of genetic issues manifesting in the child. The resulting egg was fertilized with the father’s sperm and then implanted into the mother’s womb. The baby implanted well and was born at 37 weeks after a normal pregnancy.
The procedure performed on the egg and its fertilization was conducted in a private clinic in New York. The embryo was then frozen and brought to Mexico for the implantation procedure.
This development means that eggs with abnormal mitochondria can now be tweaked with healthy mitochondria from a donor. The added benefit is that this can mean the eradication of some genetic diseases that are passed from mother to offspring.
It should be noted that some critics are calling the procedure a form of playing God and a technology towards creating designer children. On a positive note, other developments could come out of this breakthrough.