'3-Parent Babies' Could Soon Be Legal in UK

Health secretary investigating risks, benefits
By Mary Papenfuss,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 17, 2012 4:45 AM CDT
'Three-Parent Babies' Could Soon Be Legal in UK
A single cell is removed from a human embryo in a lab.   (AP Photo/Advanced Cell Technology)

As the US continues to grapple with gay marriage, the British may be a step closer to legalizing three-parent babies. It's part of a scientific strategy to help eliminate debilitating genetic problems. The three-parent technique would involve using some healthy DNA from a third party who's not the biological mom or dad in the creation of an "engineered embryo." Although babies would inherit only a small fraction of their DNA from the third-party donor in such a process, it could save future generations from a host of genetic problems, reports the Telegraph.

The technique isn't currently legal, but British Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt is beginning to investigate, with input from experts, whether the health benefits of such a strategy might outweigh ethical concerns. He'll examine such issues as the strategy's effect on a child's sense of identity, or the donor's parental rights, if any. If Hunt okays the process, the treatment could be written into law as early as next year, making Britain the first country in the world to allow human trials. "We find ourselves in unchartered territory, balancing the desire to help families have healthy children with the possible impact on the children themselves and wider society," says the chairwoman of the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority, the group working with Hunt to examine the issues. (Read more genetic defects stories.)

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