By Stephanie Stahl
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — New technology opens the way for creating babies using DNA from 3 people. It’s designed to eliminate diseases, but is the creation of a “super baby” safe or ethical? The technique has been approved in Britain. Could it come here next?
It’s the latest genetic bombshell, preventing inherited diseases with the ability to create an embryo using the DNA, or genetic material from three people. Britain is the first country to approve the technology. “I think it’s controversial both medically and socially, ethically and perhaps legally,” says Dr. Caleb Kallen, a fertility specialist at Thomas Jefferson University. He says the technique hasn’t been tested in humans. It’s designed to prevent mitochondrial diseases, which are devastating. Kathryn Kitto a mother who has a daughter with Mitochondrial disease says, “To allow this procedure to take place will definitely give our two girls an important option.”
It’s a variation of in vitro fertilization. If a mother’s egg carries defective mitochondria, the healthy nucleus can be removed and put into a donor egg, which then gets the father’s sperm, and is implanted in the womb. The result: a child with DNA from three parents. Dr. Kallen says, “We don’t know what the long term ramifications are.”
And then there’s the slippery slope of having the ability to change other things like hair color or height and create designer babies. Dr. Kallen says, “If we can cure problems with mitochondrial disease, then why shouldn’t we do additional manipulations of other genomic components and cure other diseases or designing babies that we like?”
Experts say three parent biological babies are still a long way off scientifically, and even if all the research pans, there are laws that could prevent or restrict its use in the United States.