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  • Controversial baby with DNA from three people

    Author: AAP

The Australian Mitochondrial Disease Foundation has welcomed the arrival of a baby boy via the controversial "three parent" technique.

The world's first ever baby born using the DNA from three people has been welcomed by Australian experts as an exciting medical advance that gives hope to parents with Mitochondrial disease.

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But some have quizzed the ethics involved in the reproduction process.

The baby boy was conceived using the controversial "three parent" technique known as maternal spindle transfer (MST), which involved removing the mother's healthy DNA from an egg and slipping it into a donor's egg that is then fertilised by the father's sperm.

According to the New Scientist magazine, the boy was born five months ago to Jordanian parents, who were treated in Mexico by a team led by Dr John Zhang of the New Hope Fertility Center in New York.


Dr Doug Lingard, Chairman of the Australian Mitochondrial Disease Foundation, says they "heartedly" welcome the use of the technique.

"This is an exciting major advance which could for the first time provide women with mitochondrial mutations the choice of having children not affected by debilitating mitochondrial disease."

The mother of the child carried DNA that could have given her child Leigh syndrome, a severe neurological disorder that usually kills within a few years of birth. Her previous children died of the disease at eight months and six years, the research summary said.

MST is illegal in both Australia and the US and many critics question the technique's safety, saying children would have to be tracked for decades to make sure they remain healthy.

Britain became the first country in the world to allow creation of human embryos with the technique.

Professor David Thorburn who leads the Mitchondrial research team at the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute says while he's a strong supporter of the process in the UK there's insufficient information to be confident about the process used in this instance.

"I find it concerning that the American group may have bypassed ethical and regulatory oversight by performing the procedure in Mexico, where the lead author was quoted as saying 'there are no rules'."

Bioethicist Dr Ainsley Newson from the University of Sydney agrees the manner of this particular case is "disquieting".

"The treatment location seems to have been chosen due to there not being any regulations in place. This is in stark contrast to the UK, where specific regulation was developed after a lengthy process of scientific, legal and public engagement. There has also been less research into MST than other approaches, raising safety aspects."

Associate Professor Newson says it's essential that Australian policymakers look at how our laws can keep pace with fast-moving technologies like this one.


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