In a first for the medical community across the world, a baby, conceived with the controversial three-parent technique, has been born. Essentially, this means that the baby has DNA from three people.
The baby boy was born to a Jordanian couple, after being treated in Mexico by a team led by Dr. John Zhang of the New Hope Fertility Center in New York. The mother carried DNA which could potentially have given her foetus Leigh syndrome, a severe neurological disorder which would’ve killed the baby within a few years. The parents had already lost two children to Leigh syndrome, at eight months and six years respectively.
According to international press, who reported the birth, the baby was born five months ago. The birth is detailed in a research summary published by journal Fertility & Sterility, and the scientists are due to present details at a meeting next month in Salt Lake City.
The technique involved removing healthy DNA from the mother’s egg, and leaving behind the part of the DNA that carried Leigh syndrome. The healthy DNA was added into a donor’s egg, and fertilised using the father’s sperm. This means that the baby inherits three sets of DNA—the mother, father, and the donor’s. This technique is said to sometimes produce “three-parent babies,” but the study says that the DNA contribution from the donor is minimal.
The technique is not approved in the United States, with critics saying that it crosses a scientific boundary by altering the DNA a foetus inherits. Zhang disagrees, telling the magazine, “To save lives is the ethical thing to do.” The team decided to do the treatment in Mexico where “there are no rules.”
Even though there is a lot of criticism against the technique, Zhang and his team appear to have been ethical in their approach. New Scientist says that “the team avoided destroying embryos, and used a male embryo, so that the resulting child wouldn’t pass on any inherited mitochondrial DNA.”