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FDA Considers Three-Person Fertility Method
One baby. Three parents.
This week, the FDA is considering whether to support an embryo fertilization technique that could create babies from the DNA of three people.
The goal is to prevent moms from passing genetic diseases to their children.
Three-person embryo fertilization faces a number of ethical questions, like whether the government should approve the creation of genetically modified babies.
Doctors say genetic diseases are incurable and this type of fertilization might be the only solution.
"Disorders associated with genetics of the mitochondria happen in about nine to 12 out of every 100,000 people. So we are looking at a very, very small group of individuals that would potentially be benefited from this technology," said Dr. Ricardo Loret de Mola, Director of the SIU School of Medicine Fertility and IVF Center.
But local fertility doctors say the impact on those people would be huge.
"These are conditions that affect every single cell in the body, so they're impossible to treat other than replacing the mitochondria that are faulty with healthy ones," Loret de Mola said.
Ralph Rivera is the legislative lobbyist for the Illinois Family Institute. He compares the three-person fertility method to cloning and fears the children could experience defects later in life just as Dolly, the cloned sheep, experienced.
"What they found was that Dolly was found with many defects. Many medical history problems. That could be the unintended consequence of this," said Rivera.
The concern of the Illinois Family Institute is that three-person embryo fertilization could be a slippery slope toward designer babies.
"This should not be a situation where we experiment on human lives. Even as small as they are in their embryonic state," Rivera said.
But doctors say, for children with genetic diseases, three-person embryo fertilization may be the only way to correct the problem.
"They affect children. They usually have very, very, difficult lives. They're affected by a multitude of problems. They suffer tremendously," Loret de Mola said.
Some experts believe it's still too early in the research process to try three-person embryo fertilization on people, and more animal studies are needed.
The Center for Genetics and Society says more than 40 countries have laws banning this type of gene modification that is passed on to future children.