UK grants first license to make babies using DNA from three people

March 16, 2017 by Maria Cheng
A depiction of the double helical structure of DNA. Its four coding units (A, T, C, G) are color-coded in pink, orange, purple and yellow. Credit: NHGRI

Britain's Newcastle University says its scientists have received a license to create babies using DNA from three people to prevent women from passing on potentially fatal genetic diseases to their children—the first time such approval has been granted.

The license was granted Thursday by the country's fertility regulator, according to the university.

In December, British officials approved the "cautious use" of the techniques, which aim to fix problems linked to mitochondria, the energy-producing structures outside a cell's nucleus. Faulty mitochondria can result in conditions including and major organ failure.

"Mitochondria diseases can be devastating for families affected and this is a momentous day for patients," said Doug Turnbull, director of the research at Newcastle University. The university has said it is aiming to treat up to 25 patients a year.

To help women with mitochondria problems from passing them on to their children, scientists remove the nucleus DNA from the egg of a prospective mother and insert it into a 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. The DNA from the donor amounts to less than 1 percent of the resulting embryo's genes.

The license granted to Newcastle University relates only to the clinic's capacity to perform the techniques, Britain's fertility regulator said. The clinic must apply for each individual patient to be treated and no patient application has yet been approved.

Last year, U.S.-based doctors announced they had created the world's first baby using such techniques, after traveling to Mexico to perform the procedure, which has not been approved in the United States.

Critics have raised concerns about the treatment, saying it will put people at unnecessary risk of an untested procedure. Some say women with faulty mitochondria should choose simply to use egg donors and that using the new techniques will open the door to genetically modified "designer babies."

Explore further: A look at the UK's proposal to make babies from 3 people

Related Stories

A look at the UK's proposal to make babies from 3 people

February 3, 2015
As British lawmakers vote Tuesday on whether to legalize the creation of babies made from the DNA of three people, here are some questions and answers about the proposed techniques and the controversy surrounding them.

UK proposes rules for embryos made from 3 people

December 17, 2014
(AP)—New rules proposed in Britain would make it the first country to allow embryos to be made from the DNA of three people in order to prevent mothers from passing on potentially fatal genetic diseases to their babies.

Making embryos from three people doesn't look unsafe

June 3, 2014
Britain's fertility regulator says controversial techniques to create embryos from the DNA of three people "do not appear to be unsafe" even though no one has ever received the treatment, according to a new report released ...

UK 1st country to allow creation of embryos from 3 people

February 25, 2015
(AP)—Britain has become the first country in the world to allow the creation of human embryos from the DNA of three people, a technique intended to help mothers avoid passing on genetically degenerative diseases to their ...

UK: Public OK with creating babies from three people

March 20, 2013
Britain's fertility regulator says it has found broad public support for in vitro fertilization techniques that allow babies to be created with DNA from three people for couples at risk of passing on potentially fatal genetic ...

UK may OK creating babies with DNA from 3 people

June 27, 2013
(AP)—Britain may allow a controversial technique to create babies using DNA from three people, a move that would help couples avoid passing on rare genetic diseases, the country's top medical officer says.

Recommended for you

Forgotten strands of DNA initiate the development of immune cells

September 21, 2017
Intricate human physiological features such as the immune system require exquisite formation and timing to develop properly. Genetic elements must be activated at just the right moment, across vast distances of genomic space.

Genome editing reveals role of gene important for human embryo development

September 20, 2017
Researchers have used genome editing technology to reveal the role of a key gene in human embryos in the first few days of development. This is the first time that genome editing has been used to study gene function in human ...

A piece of the puzzle: Eight autism-related mutations in one gene

September 19, 2017
Scientists have identified a hotspot for autism-related mutations in a single gene.

Scientists identify key regulator of male fertility

September 19, 2017
When it comes to male reproductive fertility, timing is everything. Now scientists are finding new details on how disruption of this timing may contribute to male infertility or congenital illness.

New assay leads to step toward gene therapy for deaf patients

September 18, 2017
Scientists at Oregon State University have taken an important step toward gene therapy for deaf patients by developing a way to better study a large protein essential for hearing and finding a truncated version of it.

A new approach to high insulin levels

September 18, 2017
Diabetes is characterised by a deficiency of insulin. Its opposite is a condition called congenital hyperinsulinism—patients produce the hormone too frequently and in excessive quantities, even if they haven't eaten any ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.