Are “3-Parent Babies” Ethical?

Human embryos (Bloomberg)

Human embryos (Bloomberg)

The genetic engineering future is here, and we’ve come to an important initial step: Is it ethical to create babies using DNA from three parents?

Scientists say “yes,” provided there are certain conditions. Said conditions were laid out in a report put out last week by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine:

Scientists would have to perform extensive preliminary research in the laboratory and with animals to try to make sure it is safe. And then researchers should initially try to make only male babies, because they would be incapable of passing their unusual amalgamation of DNA on to future generations.

The main goal of creating a “three-parent baby” would be to make a “genetically related child without risk of passing on a disease.” This would be done using mitochondrial replacement technique (MRT), which combines genetic material from two women and one man. Mitochondrial disorders are only passed down by women, so one women’s genetic material would substitute for the other one’s. (The defective material would be completely removed.)

Naturally, there are many implications (social, sexual, medical) for these experiments, and it’ll be interesting to see how things proceed. The UK introduced a bill on this same subject last year, and recently received approval to begin mitochondrial transplants.

 

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