World first as baby born to three parents
The world's first three-parent baby has been hailed as "a huge deal" for the future of reproduction.
Scientists yesterday revealed the birth of a baby boy, now five months old, using DNA from three parents.
Fertility experts hailed the breakthrough as "great news" for the future of reproduction, but expressed concern that it was achieved only because US scientists crossed into Mexico to take advantage of lax regulation.
The child was born to a couple from Jordan, who had been trying to start a family for almost 20 years. His mother carries genes for Leigh syndrome, a fatal disorder that affects the developing nervous system, and caused the deaths of their first two children.
The baby was conceived from an egg containing nuclear DNA from his mother and father, and mitochondrial DNA from an unknown "second" mother to replace defective DNA and prevent the disease being passed on through the maternal line.
Mitochondrial DNA is housed in the tiny rod-like "batteries" in cells that supply energy, and is passed down through the generations by mothers.
A pioneering approach called spindle nuclear transfer enabled the breakthrough birth, which was revealed in 'New Scientist' magazine.
Scientists from the New Hope Fertility Center in New York City, led by Dr John Zhang, created five embryos using the technique, one of which developed normally and was implanted.
The method has not been approved in the US, so Dr Zhang went to Mexico where he said "there are no rules". Defending his decision, he said: "To save lives is the ethical thing to do".
Dr Dusko Ilic, a reader in stem cell science at King's College London, said: "This is great news and a huge deal - it's revolutionary." He said the technique was likely to be swiftly followed.
But experts said they were concerned about the lack of regulation in Mexico.
Last year the British House of Lords approved legislation to allow mitochondrial replacement. Those working in the field in Britain have insisted the technique should be used only to help the one in 4,000 people who are carrying an incurable mitochondrial disease.
Inherited mitochondrial diseases include devastating conditions that result in poor growth, muscle weakness, loss of co-ordination, seizures, vision and hearing problems, and learning disabilities.
But Dr Zhang said the technique could in future be used in "unlimited" ways, including altering a child's DNA to change their appearance.
Dr David King, director of the watchdog group Human Genetics Alert, branded the research "unethical and irresponsible". (© Daily Telegraph, London)