Sci-tech

The world's first baby with DNA from three people has been born

The world's first baby with DNA from three people has been born

The world's first baby has been born using the controversial three-parent technique, it emerged today.

The baby, Abrahim Hassan was born on 6 April after his Jordanian parents travelled to Mexico where a team of U.S. doctors oversaw a controversial procedure of mitochondrial transfer in the hope that it would give the couple a healthy child.

Babies conceived using these fertility techniques could have what are known as germline changes, which can be passed down from generation to generation and open the door to a lab mistake potentially causing problems in a person born decades later.

If successful, it could even lead to same-sex couples having both their DNA in their future child.

The procedure, called spindle nuclear transfer, involves removing the healthy nucleus from one of the mother's eggs and transferring it to a donor egg which had had its nucleus removed. The result is an egg with mitochondrial DNA from a healthy donor and nuclear DNA from the mother.

Zhang created five embryos this way. After the embryo's mitochondrial DNA was screened and found to be healthy, doctors implanted the embryo into the mother's uterus.

The child was at risk of inheriting DNA for Leigh syndrome, a severe neurological disorder that usually kills within a few years of birth.

In fact the team decamped from their base in NY to work over the border precisely because the technique is illegal in the US. He then fertilised the egg with the husband's sperm.

About a quarter of the mother's mitochondria have the disease-causing mutation.

The method used a nucleus from the mother's egg cell to replace the nucleus in a donor cell.

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Dr Zhang says the procedure was the right decision to make.

Dr Dusko Ilic, an expert from King's College London, told New Scientist magazine, which carries an exclusive report of the birth in its latest issue: "This is great news and a huge deal".

According to New Scientist, Zhang and his team are due to present the case at a meeting of the American Society of Reproductive Medicine in October.

The controversial technique has only been legally approved in the UK.

The boy was born in Mexico to Jordanian parents who tapped researchers from the New Hope Fertility Center in NY to help them conceive a healthy child, according to New Scientist.

Dr David King from the pro-choice group Human Genetics Alert, said: "It is outrageous that they simply ignored the cautious approach of USA regulators and went to Mexico, because they think they know better".

"As with any development of new techniques, you always need to bear in mind efficacy and safety".

Before the fertilised eggs start dividing into embryos, each nucleus is removed.

While the mother herself is healthy, a gene for the disease resides in her DNA, in the mitochondria that powers cells. Some of the babies went on to develop genetic disorders, and the technique was banned. "Hopefully, this will tame the more zealous critics, accelerate the field, and we will witness soon the birth of the first mitochondrial donation baby in the United Kingdom".

Zhang is not a newcomer to embryo modification techniques.


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