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Ethicists Warn Against Three-Parent Reproductive Technology

Concerned about the effects of a new technology that involves three parents providing genetic information to create a child, experts are cautioning against opening up the technology to human clinical trials.

"The desire to help women suffering from mitochondrial disorders or infertility is admirable and worthy," wrote Robert George, McCormick professor of jurisprudence at Princeton,* and Dr. Donald Landry, chair of the Department of Medicine at New York Presbyterian Hospital in a Feb. 18 letter to the Food and Drug Administration.

"However, the needs of the children being created through novel technologies also must be taken into account,” they warned.

The technology, referred to by the FDA as  "oocyte modification in assisted reproduction,” was developed to avoid mitochondrial disorders, and ultimately means that the child created by the process will inherit genetic information from three parents.

In oocyte modification, the DNA from a mother – who has a defect in her mitochondrial DNA — and a father is inserted into an egg from a second woman, who has healthy mitochondrial DNA.

The letters to the FDA were sent in advance of hearings  to be held by the department Feb. 25 and 26 over the possibility that this technology would be expanded to  human clinical trials

In a Feb. 18 letter, the  Center for Genetics and Society said that human trials of the procedure "should not be permitted because of the profound safety, efficacy, policy and social problems they would pose."

"We question the ethics of bringing children into existence by experimental techniques that have had developmentally poor outcomes in studies using both animal and human" eggs, the organization continued.

George and Landry also criticized the procedure on medical and ethical grounds, pointing to potential birth defects and other disorders from in-vitro fertilization, and the relative lack of regulatory oversight to "monitor safety for children or mothers" in such artificial reproductive procedures, warning that the children "created using these techniques would be exposed to a range of medical risks."

They cautioned that children created through these techniques could experience effects on “individual development, cognitive behavior, and key health parameters” due to interactions between the genetic information of the parents. 

They also noted that while some other assisted reproduction technologies can result in the destruction of human embryos, this technique "would have the dubious distinction of being the first assisted reproduction technology necessarily to involve the deliberate destruction of human embryos" in its processes.

Approving such a procedure for human trials "that systematically and necessarily destroys human embryos would mean permitting an unjust and immoral exploitation and instrumentalization of human life," the professors warned.

George and Landry were also concerned that the use of three parents to create a child would be "a dramatic alteration of the first and most basic of natural human relationships, with consequences difficult to fathom or predict."

Human beings have "one genetic mother and one genetic father, a biological fact that is inseparable from our most fundamental social institutions" and psychology, they said, and actions that "would purposely reconfigure the natural, biological foundation of the family merit heightened moral scrutiny," they charged.

Landry and George pointed out that children of sperm or egg donors often experience distress and suffering because of the disrupted familial relationship and lack of a relationship with their biological parents.

The addition of another parent who gives a child genetic information "would create parental relationships unprecedented in nature, with children related to two genetic mothers" and "would be especially reckless and immoral" to support, they said.

* Professor George is a leading proponent of the Manhattan Declaration:
[Adelaide Mena, ; Washington D.C., Feb 24, 2014 / (CNA/EWTN News)]



Scientists Head Towards Creating Human Baby With Three Parents to Eliminate Disease: Germline Genetic Engineering, 8/09

The latest news from the world of genetic manipulation comes from scientists who are conducting research on monkeys that they say could lead to the birth of a human being with three parents in order to eliminate the possibility of inheriting genes that could cause certain diseases or conditions.

Genetic engineering has long caused problems for pro-life advocates and bioethicists because of the manipulation involved and research that destroys human life in order to create a so-called perfect human race.

It also leads, they say, to a society which devalues the disabled and the physically and mentally disabled.

Despite the concerns, Shoukhrat Mitalipov, of the Oregon National Primate Research Centre, has moved forward with experiments in monkeys. His team created a technique that led to the birth of four healthy macaque monkeys.

The research involved the transplantation of genetic material in the DNA of one monkey into the egg of another to correct genetic defects that damage health.

The success of the technique, germline genetic engineering, could mean that it could be used in women in a matter of years to allow them to avoid passing along so-called harmful genes to their unborn children.

However, the technique makes it so the children it creates would inherit genetic material from three parents.


The unborn baby's mother and father would contribute most of their child’s DNA but a small amount would come from a second woman donating healthy mitochondria, where defects can cause issues for one out of ever 6,500 people.

“The only way to treat these defects is to replace the genes,” Mitalipov told the London Daily mail newspaper.

“This is gene transfer involving the germline, which is a concern, but we are pursuing it not for general use but for patients with mutations they will pass to the next generation. We believe this technology will prevent that," he said.

His team published their findings in the journal Nature, where they modified eggs containing chromosomes from one female monkey and mitochondria from another and fertilized them using sperm. The resulting embryos were transferred to the wombs of surrogate mothers.

The first monkeys to be born were twins called Mito and Tracker, after a dye called MitoTracker used in the experiments. Two more monkeys were born after later experiments.

Tests showed that none of the monkeys had any trace of mitochondrial DNA from the mother that provided their nuclear DNA, suggesting that the process was successful.

“We consider it a big achievement,” Dr Mitalipov said. “Anything we study and achieve in non-human primates can be translated much more easily to humans.”

He told the Daily Mail that his would apply to the FDA for permission to try the technique with human eggs. Such research would have to wait for a few ye

ars for the longer-term results of the study involving the monkeys to produce enough data about their health.
[27Aug09, Ertelt,, Washington, DC, - ]