BRITAIN will become the first country in the world to create babies with the DNA of three people under government plans that could see the procedure offered on the NHS by next year.
It means the world's first "three-parent baby" could be born in Britain by 2015, if detailed proposals for regulating the procedure pass a public consultation and are approved by the UK parliament next year.
Up to 10 patients per year are expected to undergo the treatment, which involves replacing a fraction of the mother's damaged DNA with that of a healthy donor.
The process avoids the risk of the mother passing inherited defects to her children that can lead to rare and debilitating conditions.
The technique is controversial because it involves "germ line" modification of the embryo's DNA, meaning the third party's genetic material would not only be passed on to the child, but also to future generations down the female line.
But ministers will publish draft regulations later this year allowing the therapy to "high-risk" families after a public consultation conducted by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority last year revealed overall support.
The technique is aimed at tackling a collection of rare hereditary conditions caused by mutated mitochondria – structures that supply power to our cells.
Prof Dame Sally Davies, the chief medical officer, compared the process to changing a faulty battery in a car. The new mitochondria from the third parent make the child healthy but would not change their outward appearance.
"Mitochondrial disease can have a devastating impact on people who inherit it," she said. (© Daily Telegraph, London)