Scientists at Newcastle University are among the researchers looking into three-parent invitro fertilization techniques. The goal is to create genetically modified embryos using healthy donor DNA so that mothers do not pass on incurable diseases to their children. Mitochondrial disease causes rare inherited conditions including fatal heart problems, brain disorders and muscular dystrophy.
"There isn't any treatment and cure for patients with mitochondrial disease, so what we're trying to do is prevent the transmission from mother to child," said Doug Turnball, a professor at Newcastle University.
One technique involves swapping faulty genetic material for healthy material between the mother's egg and a donor egg.
Britain's chief medical officer, Dame Sally Davies, says the research should go forward.
"We're not touching the nuclear DNA which comes from both parents, makes us look and act as we are, be as we are, it's about the power supply, the energy for the cell and only that," Davies said.
But critics say creating a baby from the DNA of three people is unethical.
"It's crossing a line that many experts in ethics and generics and scientist generally are very concerned about worldwide," said Josephine Quintavalle of Comment on Reproductive Ethics.
Mitochondrial disease affects about one in 6,500 children around the world. Experts say only 5-10 families a year would benefit from this new technique in Britain.
Rachel Kean of London has mitochondrial disease in her family.
"We are talking about preventing children living with or dying from forms of truly devastating diseases," Kean said.
If the therapy proves to be safe and gets approval, the UK could be offering the treatment in just a few years.
Any final decision to offer the therapy would need to go to a vote in parliament. Similar research is being done in the U.S.
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