Britain's first three-parent babies may be coming soon - thanks to Newcastle University receiving permission to conduct IVF procedures using the DNA of two women. The faulty mitochondria are genetically transmitted, making it impossible for women who have the disease to give birth to healthy babies.
A woman, who has not been named, is to undergo mitochondrial replacement therapy (MRT) treatment on Tyneside.
Mary Herbert, professor of reproductive biology at the Newcastle Fertility Centre and Newcastle University, said the team was delighted by the decision to grant the clinic a license.
The method is known as a mitochondrial donation in-vitro fertilization (IVF), commonly known as the "three-parent baby" technique.
The fertility technique, which was developed by Newcastle scientists, allows doctors to replace an egg's defective mitochondrial DNA with healthy DNA from a female donor to prevent children suffering debilitating conditions such as muscular dystrophy. During this procedure, scientists harvest the nucleus and DNA from the mother's egg and implant it in the donor egg, which is then fertilized and implanted through IVF.
Three-person babies have been allowed only in cases where the risk of a child developing mitochondrial disease is very high.
An unidentified woman will now be the first person to undergo mitochondrial replacement therapy (MRT) in the United Kingdom at the Newcastle Fertility Centre at Life clinic, Sky News reports.
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The team at Newcastle plans to offer mitochondrial donation to up to 25 women a year with mitochondrial disease.
Mitochondrial disease is passed down from the mother so the three parent technique uses a donor egg as well as the mother's egg and father's sperm.
"Mitochondrial diseases can be devastating for families affected and this is a momentous day for patients who have tirelessly campaigned for this decision", said Doug Turnbull, head of the Newcastle Wellcome Centre for Mitochondrial Research, according to Buzzfeed. Think of the mitochondria as each cell's energy-generating battery.
It affects one in 4,300 births - and can cause muscle weakness, blindness, learning disabilities, heart and liver failure, deafness and seizures and can also prove to be fatal.
The UK became the first country to legalise the procedure in December but the first baby born using the technique was in Mexico earlier this year, where there are no laws preventing the procedure.
Britain is the first country in the world to allow MRT after the HFEA gave a cautious green light to the procedure past year.