Last week Britain voted to approve a new in vitro fertilization (IVF) technique that could lead to babies being born with DNA from three people. The mitochondrial replacement therapy (MRT) would prevent potential medical issues and diseases by replacing the mother's mutated mitochondrial cells with a donor woman's healthy cells.
As soon as this news was released, the Internet was flooded with headlines about the possibility of a "three-parent baby." I immediately read a few articles and still wasn't sure what to make of the new procedure. Some media outlets were portraying it as the first step toward creating designer babies, and even though I'm an IVF baby myself (and should advocate for any form of IVF by default then, right?)—I still wasn't convinced.
What many articles aren't saying is that a MRT baby would have more than 99.99% of their parents' DNA—meaning less than 0.01% of the child's DNA would be that of the donor woman. A percentage that small doesn't sound like someone you can easily consider a genetic parent.
Others who oppose the legalization of MRT argue the possiblity of risk; however, there is always some risk when it comes to medical procedures and in order for improvements to be made, calculated risks need to be—and should be—made.
One thing we all know: advances in medicine are not going to slow any time soon. And preventing inherited, and potentially fatal, diseases is far different than choosing your baby's eye color for aesthetic purposes.
MRT is still in the research stages, but later this month the UK's upper house will vote on whether or not to legalize the bill—and it might not be long before the United States reverses its decision to cease a similar procedure over 10 years ago.
The procedure my parents chose to go through over two decades ago has gained more and more acceptance over the years—so while the idea of MRT might be hard to swallow at this very moment, I'm confident that 15 years down the road, we won't be so uneasy.
Caitlin St John is an Editorial Assistant for Parents.com who splits her time between New York City and her hometown on Long Island. She's a self-proclaimed foodie who loves dancing and anything to do with her baby nephew. Follow her on Twitter: @CAITYstjohn
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Image: In vitro fertilization via Shutterstock