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DNA of three parents may help babies fight disease

A stem cell technique that uses DNA from three people could prevent a variety of hereditary diseases, researchers believe
A stem cell technique that uses DNA from three people could prevent a variety of hereditary diseases, researchers believe.

The technique screens embryos for incurable genetic diseases. If an abnormality is found, the defective DNA is replaced with that of another woman.

Earlier this year, scientists at Newcastle University created the first IVF embryo using the DNA of one man and two women.

They say it could prevent diseases like diabetes, muscular dystrophy, epilepsy, blindness and heart problems.

Professor Doug Turnbull, who leads the research, told the Telegraph: "Over the next two or three years we are hoping to make significant progress on this, because we want to offer hope to mothers who have this fault in their mitochondria as soon as possible."

Critics say that this is just a step away from human cloning, but supporters point out that mitochondria contains just 37 of the approximately 200,000 genes in the human body.

A technique to create a baby with three parents was banned in America in the late 1990s. In the UK, the law states that embryos created using this technique have to be destroyed.

Each mitochondrion has its own DNA which is passed from mother to child. Mutations in the mitochondrial DNA affect one person in every 6,500 and can cause around 50 known diseases, some which lead to disability and death.

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