Human life is typically formed a man and a woman. But in Britain, future children could soon be created with DNA from more than two people.
On Feb. 3, British lawmakers in the House of Commons voted 382-128 to allow the in vitro creation of babies with DNA from three individuals. If approved in the House of Lords, the unelected upper chamber of Parliament, Britain would become the first country to authorize such a technique.
The procedure is meant to help women with faulty mitochondria, which are small compartments contained in almost every cell of the body that converts food into usable energy. Mitochondria has its own DNA that does not affect one’s appearance.
Defective mitochondria is passed down only from mothers and can result in heart and kidney failure, blindness, and brain damage, among other conditions.
The technique results in babies that posses 0.1 percent of DNA from the second woman and would permanently alter what is passed down to future generations.
“This is world leading science within a highly respected regulatory regime,” said Public Health Minister Jane Ellison during the Commons debate. “And for the many families affected, this is light at the end of a very dark tunnel.”
If approved, the procedure is expected to be performed sparingly. But it has still received backlash from those who possess ethical objections.
“If we believe that, sadly, given the nature of the human condition, there are these appalling diseases, where do we stop?” asked Conservative lawmaker Edward Leigh, who is also a former minister, according to The New York Times. Leigh called for full clinical trials to determine the safety and effectiveness of the procedure.
“We will be the first state to authorize this in the world,” he said. “We will be in a unique position, and we should ask ourselves why no other state – not the European Union, not the U.S., yet – thinks this process is absolutely safe.”
Fiona Bruce, the Member of Parliament for Congleton, said the technique would be one passed down for generations and one possessing unpredictable implications.
“But one thing is for sure, once this alteration has taken place, as someone has said, once the gene is out of the bottle, once these procedures that we’re asked to [authorize] today go ahead, there will be no going back for society,” she said, according to BBC.
In England and Wales, the Catholic Church said in a statement it seemed “extraordinary that a license should be sought for a radical new technique affecting future generations without first conducting a clinical trial.”
The Church of England also said there should be additional time for consultation and research and that the church did not want to hinder people from benefiting from a significant advance in genetics and assisted reproduction.
(With reports from BBC and The New York Times)