Britain’s Newcastle University has been granted permission to create babies using the DNA of three people, reports the Chicago Tribune. While the country made it legal last year, Newcastle is the first facility to receive approval to actually use the technique, which prevents the passage of genetic diseases.
Using DNA from the mother, the father, and a donor, the procedure addresses issues in mitochondrial DNA by using gene splicing and IVF. From the Tribune: “Scientists remove the nucleus DNA from the egg of a prospective mother and insert it into a donor egg from which the donor DNA has been removed. This can happen before or after fertilization. The resulting embryo ends up with nucleus DNA from its parents but mitochondrial DNA from a donor.” This way, fatal and severe conditions found in a mother’s mitochondrial DNA, like muscular dystrophy, are prevented.
Leigh syndrome, a rare neurological disorder, is one such condition linked to mitochondrial DNA. And in 2016, it was the impetus for the world’s very first so-called “three-parent baby,” born to a Jordanian mother with the genetic mutation that causes the disease. The American doctors who performed the procedure did so in Mexico, where regulations are light. Approval in the U.S. does not exist.
Though Newcastle University has permission to perform the procedure, “the clinic must apply for each individual patient to be treated,” writes the Tribune, “and no patient application has yet been approved.”