Feeds

Three-parent embryo research gets green light

A teensy bit controversial, this one

Intelligent flash storage arrays

UK researchers have been given the go-ahead to create an embryo that will contain DNA from three people, after the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) reversed its decision to ban the procedure.

The technique in question could eventually be used to prevent a series of genetic disorders, known collectively as mitochondrial myopathy, which include muscular dystrophy. These are triggered by defective genes in a woman's mitochondrial DNA. The researchers want to try to prevent these genes being passed on.

Mitochondrial DNA, which is only inherited from the mother, exists in the area around the nucleus of an egg, not in the nucleus itself. It is responsible for the energy management systems in a human being, rather than physical characteristics like hair colour or facial features.

The researchers, led by Professor Doug Turnbull, propose transplanting the fertilised nucleus of an egg that contains faulty mitochondrial DNA into a healthy egg from a donor, leaving the defective mitochondrial genes behind.

The work would be purely lab-based, to find out if the procedure can be carried out safely. Researchers would not be allowed to let the embryo develop into a child.

This, however, has merely added to the controversy surrounding the decision, which has been criticised by pro-life campaigners. Josephine Quintavalle, of Comment on Reproductive Ethics, told The Guardian: "The HFEA are turning this country into the wild west. Wherever they see a law they jump over it. Babies don't need two mothers."

Meanwhile, the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign has welcomed the ruling, saying it is delighted that the research is going to go ahead.

UK law specifically forbids altering the DNA of any cell within an embryo. However, Newcastle University researchers were able to demonstrate that the phrase "altering the genetic structure" has no precise scientific meaning, and argue that the transplant procedure they propose does not actually change an embryo's genetic structure.

Professor Turnbull has been widely quoted as saying that using a third party's mitochondrial DNA is akin to changing the batteries in a faulty radio. The character and nature of the radio remain the same, it would just have a new power source, he argues. ®

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
SECRET U.S. 'SPACE WARPLANE' set to return from SPY MISSION
Robot minishuttle X-37B returns after almost 2 years in orbit
No sail: NASA spikes Sunjammer
'Solar sail' demonstrator project binned
LOHAN crash lands on CNN
Overflies Die Welt en route to lively US news vid
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
You can crunch it all you like, but the answer is NOT always in the data
Hear that, 'data journalists'? Our analytics prof holds forth
Carry On Cosmonaut: Willful Child is a poor taste Star Trek parody
Cringeworthy, crude and crass jokes abound in Steven Erikson’s sci-fi debut
Origins of SEXUAL INTERCOURSE fished out of SCOTTISH LAKE
Fossil find proves it first happened 385 million years ago
America's super-secret X-37B plane returns to Earth after nearly TWO YEARS aloft
674 days in space for US Air Force's mystery orbital vehicle
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.