Medical expert presses for change in law to allow for 'three-parent IVF'

Allowing technique banned in Britain would help thousands of families

The head of Britain's largest medical research charity called on the Government yesterday to say when it will change the law on fertility treatment to allow the birth of babies with three genetic parents.

Sir Mark Walport, the director of the Wellcome Trust, was responding to a review of the technique known as "three-parent IVF" by the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, which concluded it would be an ethical option for affected families.

"In light of this report, we urge the Government to outline a timetable for considering amendments to legislation to permit use of the techniques if the Human Fertility and Embryology Authority's (HFEA) consultation in the autumn shows public support for this important technology."

The procedure, currently banned in the UK, is aimed at helping the estimated 6,000 British adults who are living with mitochondrial disease – defects in the small structures called mitochondria that surround the cell nucleus.

The disease is inherited but is only passed down the maternal line. One in 6,500 children – about 2,000 in the UK – is thought to develop a more severe form of the disease, for which there is no cure. By removing the nucleus from an affected woman's egg, transferring it to the shell of an egg provided by a female donor who has healthy mitochondria, and then fertilising it with the sperm of the affected woman's partner, couples can avoid passing the disease to their children.

"It is every mother's wish to raise a healthy family, but for a small number affected by potentially devastating mitochondrial diseases this is sadly not possible. [These] techniques provide much-needed hope to these families, " Sir Mark said.

Anne Milton, the Public Health minister, announced the consultation on a change to the law by the HFEA last January. At the same time the Wellcome Trust awarded £4.4m to Newcastle University to establish a centre for research into mitochondrial disease.

Dr Geoff Watts, chairman of the Nuffield Council inquiry whose report is published today, said: "If further research shows these techniques to be sufficiently safe and effective, we think it would be ethical for families to use them if they wished to, provided they receive an appropriate level of support. They could offer significant health and social benefits to individuals and families."

Critics of the technique say the therapy could mark the start of a slippery slope to large-scale manipulation of future generations. Dr Watts said such anxieties were understandable, but use of the technique would be strictly limited to incurable mitochondrial disorders.

The inquiry panel said that as the "third parent" contributes less than one in 500 genes to the resulting child, and has no effect on its appearance or personality, there should be no requirement on her to be legally identifiable to the child.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Key Account Manager

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A really exciting opportunity has arisen for a...

    Recruitment Genius: Multi Trade Operative

    £22000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An established, family owned de...

    Recruitment Genius: Customer Services Assistant

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An exciting position has risen for a Customer ...

    Recruitment Genius: Tour Drivers - UK & European

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity to join a is a...

    Day In a Page

    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    Army general planning to come out
    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
    Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

    Growing mussels

    Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project