Step closer to genetically engineering children

Ethical storm brewing over scientific breakthrough

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Scientists have produced four baby monkeys who each have three biological parents using an IVF procedure.

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The procedure, used by researchers at the Oregon National Primate Research Centre on the monkeys, was designed to prevent the risk of incurable, inherited disease, and could be a step towards an era of hybrid children.

Although the technique stems from what some consider to be a good cause – that is, trying to combat the spread of genetic diseases – it has started an ethical debate on whether it is right to ‘play God’.

The technique involves removing the affected DNA and transferring healthy DNA from a mum’s egg cell into an egg donated from another woman. The result will mean that children conceived by this procedure will inherit DNA from three sources – their mum, the donor and their dad.

Mitochondrial DNA, which carry inherited diseases, is passed down from mums-to-be to their unborn baby. These types of diseases affect 150 babies a year in the UK. Diseases caused by the ‘mutated’ DNA include dementia, blindness, hearing loss and heart problems.

Ethical rights campaigners who are against this procedure include Christian Voice, who believe that scientists are going too far, too fast and playing God.

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“When the child finds out they have two mummies, how will they feel? We have to have a lot of sympathy for those with inherited conditions but we need to be very careful before we start interfering with nature,” Stephen Green from the Christian Voice told the Daily Mail.

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