In 2013 a new IVF process, along with the well known IVF medications, was introduced in the UK. This technique would allow for parents with a higher risk of genetic birth defects to offset this with the introduction of a donor’s DNA. In essence, while the fertilized egg would carry the DNA from the biological mother and father, the embryo also carries the DNA from the donor. It is this donated DNA that helps prevent the genetic birth defects from presenting. However, this IVF treatment is often considered controversial.
Why is this type of IVF Treatment Needed?
Each year, even with IVF medications helping women to become pregnant, there is a one out of 6,500 chance that an embryo’s mitochondria will be defective. Mitochondria is a part of the body’s cells responsible for giving the cell energy to function, sort of like a battery. This “power pack” is passed from mother to child. Children who are born with defective mitochondria often suffer from diseases of the heart, lungs and liver.
With this new IVF treatment, protocols and IVF drugs, the defective “battery pack” is replaced with the donor’s fully charged and operational “battery pack”. While the embryo inherits the mother’s DNA, as well as the father’s, the defective mitochondria is not inherited. This is historic as it allows women who would like to start a family, but who have a family history of genetic diseases, to become pregnant. Of course, the only way to do this is through the use of the technique and certain IVF medications to assist the process.
Ethical Considerations of Three Parent IVF Treatments
Researchers state that at least 10 lives can be saved each year, just in the UK alone, with this IVF procedure and treatment. Part of the problem, even so many years removed from the first trials are the legal issues surrounding parental claim to the child, as well as gene editing. Clear definitions are ongoing as well as regulations surrounding the use of this new IVF treatment for women who would like to have children. In 2015, this procedure was banned in the U.S. because editing of genes was thought to cross the line toward producing “designer babies”. However, scientists argue vehemently against this claim stating that this process has broader applications than simply helping healthy children to be born.
Most IVF drugs exist to help a female’s reproductive system to remain or become more fertile. However, the introduction of this IVF treatment would also allow women who have put off having children to revive senescent eggs, basically making them viable for use in an in vitro process. In 2018, the U.S. FDA warned against this procedure in clinical trials as the technique is still far from perfected. Consider also the parental identity challenges that could arise from such a procedure. Until these and other issues have been ironed out, in order to experience this process one must travel outside of the U.S.
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