British researchers are close to developing a new medical technique in which genetic material from two women and one man are used to create an embryo that would not face the risk of mitochondrial diseases. The technique, if successful, would enable women who are carriers for mitochondrial genetic mutations to bear children. More from NPR:
"I think that [two years] is not a bad estimation," Robin Lovell-Badge of the Medical Research Council tells . "The other sorts of experiments that we thought were necessary, again it will take about two years to complete all of those."
The procedure targets problems in mitochondria, the energy-producing organelles that have their own DNA. Their genome is both prone to mutation and inherited maternally — characteristics that have led researchers to think up ways to help women who carry mutated genes to have healthy children.
The British panel has been reviewing two treatment methods that involve using either a donor embryo or a donor egg from a woman with normal mitochondria. The parents would contribute nuclear DNA, but the mitochondrial DNA would come from a donor.
Before that process occurs in Britain, it would have to be made legal. And as you might imagine, the review panel is also considering ethical and safety consequences.
"The direction of travel still suggests that it is all safe, but we don't know what's round the corner so we're being a little cautious," says Lovell-Badge, who is on a review board of Britain's Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority.
The HFEA group saying evidence "does not suggest that these techniques are unsafe," but that more experiments need to be conducted before clinical treatments begin. (You can ).
The process under review is often called oocyte modification, or more generally, three-parent IVF. In the U.S., convened meetings about a similar procedure in February, seeking expert and public comment.
Image: DNA map, via Shutterstock