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Thursday 14 December 2017

Three-parent babies bring hope to families with deadly disease

Tragic Katie Rodgers, who died at 19 months
Tragic Katie Rodgers, who died at 19 months
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

A mother who lost her daughter to a fatal genetic disease has welcomed news of a revolutionary fertility procedure which has seen the birth of the world's first baby to three parents.

Fiona Rodgers from Letterkenny, Co Donegal, says the technique holds out the potential for some parents to have children without passing on the devastating disease.

Katie with her mum and dad
Katie with her mum and dad

Ms Rodgers's daughter Katie Rose died in 2014 from mitochondrial disease, for which there is no treatment or cure, when she was just 19 months old.

It emerged this week that a baby boy was born in Mexico using the DNA from three parents.

His mother carries the genes for mitochondrial disease but DNA from the 'third parent' was reportedly able to replace the defective DNA and stop the disease being passed on.

"This is roundbreaking," Ms Rodgers said. "Anyone who has been through something like this would really welcome it. When people read beyond the headline, they will see it gives parents hope."

There are around 150 children in Ireland with the genetic disease, which has varying symptoms ranging from seizures to loss of motor skills and drooping eyelids.

"Katie was diagnosed when we were in Vancouver in Canada. She was missing developmental milestones. A viral eye infection was a turning point," Ms Rodgers added.

Fiona and her husband Sean have since had twin girls and recently found out they are healthy, although as adults they risk passing on the disease if they have children.

Prof Simon Fishel, founder of Beacon CARE Fertility clinic in Dublin, said this technology will help eradicate the disease.

The hope is that over time the evidence will be there to show it to be "totally safe and utterly effective."

"The scientific community is awaiting full scientific publication of this work so it can be appropriately validated."

Dr David Walsh of the Sims fertility clinic in Dublin said he expects a clinic in Ireland to apply for a licence to do the procedure in the years to come. It is already legal in the UK.

Irish Independent

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