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'Children with three parents could be reality'

The methods, researchers say, would allow women with serious inheritable diseases to avoid passing them on to her children.

Representational picture

The conditions, collectively known as mitochondrial disease, can cause severe disability and death. The UK Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority has now started a public consultation on whether the fertility techniques, currently only allowed for research, can be offered to women, the Daily Telegraph reported.

There are two methods under question, one involving the early stage embryo and the other manipulating the egg before it is fertilised. In the first, the genetic material from the mother is removed from the embryo and placed into another early stage embryo with healthy mitochondria from a donor.

The second does the same thing but before fertilisation so the mother's genetic material is removed from the egg with the faulty mitochondria and placed into an unaffected donor egg. Technically the resulting child would have genetic material from three people, but the contribution from the donor is small, experts have said. But critics have argued this is genetic modification of humans and should not be allowed.

There are around 150 mitochondrial diseases and one in every 5,000 children or 160 every year are affected. The HFEA will be conducting surveys, meetings and online interactive forums as part of the consultation which will close at the end of the year. "Moving from laboratory research to clinical use could be a major breakthrough to prevent mitochondrial disease," a Department of Health spokesman was quoted as saying.

"Such a move raises important questions, which is why we have asked the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority to conduct a thorough consultation, which includes gathering evidence from experts and seeking views from members of the public." 

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