A ‘three-parent baby’ has been born, in a world first for reproductive science.
The five-month-old boy is genetically related to two women and one man.
He was conceived using a controversial technique that incorporates DNA from three people, which was developed with the aim of eliminating inherited diseases.
“To save lives is the ethical thing to do,” embryologist Dr John Zhang, told The New Statesman.
Embryologist Dr John Zhang holds baby Abrahim.
Abrahim’s Jordanian parents were treated by a US-based team in Mexico.
His mother carries the gene mutation for Leigh syndrome, a progressive disorder that affects the central nervous system and which killed her first two children.
She carries the mutation in about a quarter of her mitochondria (which provide energy for our cells).
The mother and her husband sought the help of Dr Zhang, medical director at the New Hope Fertility Centre in New York City, US.
The couple’s son was conceived using an approach called spindle nuclear transfer. The nucleus from one of the mother’s eggs was inserted into an egg from an anonymous donor, which was fertilised using the father’s sperm.
Five embryos were created, only one of which developed normally and was implanted in the mother’s womb.
While the US has not approved the technique, Mexico has “no rules”, Dr Zhang is reported to have said.
Tests of the baby’s mitochondria showed that less than 1% carried the Leigh mutation, which is thought to be too low a level to cause any problems.
Last year the House of Lords approved legislation to allow a different form of “three-parent technique” called mitochondrial transfer, making the UK the first country in the world explicitly to approve the procedure.
Mitochondrial transfer involves fertilising both the mother’s egg and a donor egg with the father’s sperm. The eggs’ nuclei are removed before the fertilised eggs start dividing into early-stage embryos. The nucleus from the donor’s fertilised egg is discarded and replaced by that from the mother’s fertilised egg.
Strict controls remain in force in the UK and scientists wishing to employ the technique would first have to obtain permission from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority.
Professor Doug Turnbull, from the University of Newcastle, told PA: “There have been extensive discussions in the UK to ensure that families with mitochondrial disease get the best possible advice about their reproductive options and that any new IVF-based technique is appropriately regulated and funded.
“This abstract gives very little information about the technique used, the follow-up of the child or the ethical approval process.”