MPs Vote in Favour of Three-Person IVF
Back in July, we told you about the UK’s progression towards three-person IVF. The procedure in question involves creating a baby using DNA from three people, a man and two women.
The buzz surrounding this contentious topic isn’t something to be taken lightly, but the technique also isn’t a way of paving the road for so-called “designer babies”.
The procedure would only be available to families with a history of mitochondrial disease. When a person has the condition, the tiny parts of a person’s cells don’t convert energy properly. This means that the cells in that person’s body don’t have the energy to function as they should.
Mitochondrial disease can be genetic, and be passed down unknowingly from the mother. But if an extra egg, a donor egg, were used in the conception process, such conditions could be prevented, and the child could develop healthy mitochondria.
Since mitochondria have their own DNA – that don’t affect characteristics such as the child’s appearance – some of this will be passed on to the child from the donor. While this is a permanent change to the offspring’s DNA that will get passed on for generations, it only actually makes up about 0.1% of the DNA.
Three-person IVF, developed at Newcastle University, combines the DNA of the two potential parents with the donor woman’s healthy mitochondria in a modified version of regular IVF.
But for the process to be given the go-ahead, a vote has to go through Parliament. And this week, that’s just what happened.
When three-person IVF was put to the vote in the House of Commons, MPs voted 382 to 128 in favour. Now the only step, before the technique can be put into practice, is for it to be approved in the House of Lords. And if everything goes ahead smoothly, the first baby as a result of three people’s DNA could be born as soon as next year.
The vote is a historic move that could see the UK becoming the first country in the world to introduce laws allowing the conception of children from three people.
In the Commons debate, Public Health Minister Jane Ellison said that Parliament was taking a bold step with their vote, but it is something that they had all thought long and hard about.
“This is world-leading science within a highly respected regulatory regime,” she said. “And for many families affected, this is the light at the end of a very dark tunnel.”
There are, of course, people against the vote and campaigning against it, claiming it to be unsafe or immoral. But as former Health Secretary Frank Dobson pointed out, critics are all part of the “nature of medicine and science”. He said that if absolute certainty had, in fact, been needed then IVF would never have gone ahead in the very first place.
Professor Doug Turnbull, the leader of the team that devised the technique at Newcastle University, said the Commons vote was an important hurdle to overcome in the development of the new IVF technique.
“I think the quality of the debate today shows what a robust scientific, ethical and legislative procedure we have in the UK for IVF treatments,” he said. “This is important and something the UK should rightly be proud of.”