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Should Babies Contain 3 People’s DNA?

Icsi (Photo By BSIP/UIG Via Getty Images)
Photograph by UIG via Getty Images

Think about it: Your romantic partner probably has a lot of admirable qualities—that’s probably why you decided to have a kid together. But have you ever meet someone else—supermodel, Nobel Prize winner—where you think, “Gee, I wish I could have some of that person’s genes in my child, too?”

Believe it or not, a version of this sci-fi scenario may soon be a reality in Great Britain, which is considering becoming the first nation to legalize an IVF technique combining DNA from three people. In this case, it’s just to prevent mitochondrial disease, passed down through families. And so far, public support for this treatment is strong, since it could save around 10 lives per year. The proposal will be voted on in parliament later this year.

But by messing with DNA, are we opening Pandora’s box? Professor Dame Sally Davies, chief medical officer in England, told the BBC that major regulations would be put in place to avoid more extreme tinkering with our DNA. “This is about the mitochondria,” he says. “In no way are we talking, nor should we, about changing the DNA and nucleus who makes us who we are.”

Rachel Kean, 24, whose family suffers from this MELAS Syndrome, said that the technology could be a godsend for her. Mitochrondrial diseases, she says, “are very rare diseases, and they can be truly very devastating, there are no cures at the moment. And what these techniques that are proposed are preventive options. It’s amazing, it’s truly something to be celebrated.” We think so, too.

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