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'Three parent' baby treatments given go ahead

19 December 2016 14:16

The decision has been called momentous

The decision has been called momentous

Britain has become the first country in the world to give the go-ahead for licensed "three parent" baby treatments for inherited diseases.

The decision, described as "historic" and "momentous", was taken unanimously at a board meeting of the UK fertility regulator, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA).

The first child could be born by the end of 2017.

Some families have lost multiple children to incurable mitochondrial diseases, which can leave patients with insufficient energy to keep their heart beating.

The diseases are caused by by defective mitochondria, the tiny structures in nearly every cell that convert food into useable energy.

Future children could avoid genetic disorders

The decision means IVF clinics are now free to apply for permission to carry out mitochondrial replacement therapy (MRT), which aims to prevent babies and future generations inheriting devastating genetic disorders.

Children conceived using the technique will receive a tiny amount of DNA from a third person besides their mother and father, an egg donor.

NHS will treat 25 women a year

Scientists at the University of Newcastle, which has pioneered the treatments, hope to treat 25 women a year with NHS funding.

The HFEA stressed it had taken a careful approach which meant only the most serious cases would be treated. In total, up to 3,000 women are likely to qualify for the therapy.

Chairwoman Sally Cheshire said: "Today's historic decision means that parents at very high risk of having a child with life-threatening mitochondrial disease may soon have the chance of a healthy, genetically related child. This is life-changing for those families."

The HFEA must approve every clinic and every patient before the procedure can take place.

Professor Adam Balen, chairman of the British Fertility Society that represents IVF clinics, said: "This marks a momentous and historic step and we hope families next year will begin their journey to eradicate these genetic diseases."

If you suffer from a genetic condition you can still travel abroad with tailored health insurance.