'Three-parent IVF' may be made legal in UK, says minister

Consultation on the controversial procedure begins amid outcry against 'macabre' practice

The controversial technique known as "three-parent IVF" came a step closer yesterday after the Department of Health asked the fertility regulator to conduct a public consultation into its acceptability.

Click HERE to view 'How the technique can ensure a healthy baby' graphic

At the same time the Wellcome Trust announced extra funds to expand research into the technique, which involves using genetic material from three parents – two women and a man – to create a baby.

The procedure, currently banned in the UK, is aimed at helping the estimated 12,000 people 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. About 100 babies are born each year with a severe form of the disease, for which there is no cure, with many dying in infancy.

The proposed procedure involves 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. The resulting baby would have genetic characteristics chiefly from its mother and father plus some from the mitochondria of its third parent, who provided the donor egg.

An alternative method involves fertilising the woman's egg with her partner's sperm before transfer into the donor egg.

Announcing the consultation, Public Health Minister Anne Milton said: "Mitochondrial disease... can have a devastating impact on the people who inherit it. Scientists have developed a new procedure to stop these diseases being passed on. But such a procedure would not be allowed... under current law, so we are consulting the public as to whether we should change the law."

Sir Mark Walport, director of the Wellcome Trust, announced a £4.4 million grant towards the £5.8m cost of building a new centre at Newcastle University to lead research into mitochondrial disease.

Doug Turnbull, Professor of neurology at the university, who will become the centre's director, said: "If this technology proves to be as safe as IVF and as effective as preliminary studies show, I think we could totally prevent transmission of these diseases."

The public consultation by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority will start later this year.

The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children said: "These macabre experiments are both destructive and dangerous and therefore unethical. Scientists should abandon the spurious field of destructive embryo experimentation and instead promote the ethical alternative of adult stem-cell research, which is already providing cures and treatments for the same conditions."

Case study: 'This research could end the suffering'

Nicola Bardett, 33, watched her mother die in October 2009, aged 52. She was deaf, having seizures, a bowel disorder and in her final months developed dementia. Now Nicola fears for herself and three-year-old son, Luke. A mitochondrial disease – MELAS – runs in the family

"At some point I will develop symptoms but the doctors cannot tell me what or when. This is not just about individuals – it is whole families affected, generation after generation. I have to watch my family suffer. This research could interrupt that process – and potentially let people have children completely free of the disease. That would be incredible – it could wipe out this problem from future generations and from every other family who suffers the same problem."

VIDEO
News
Strange 'quack' noises could be undersea chatter of Minke whales
science
Voices
voices Furore is yet another example of shameful Westminster evasion, says Nigel Farage
News
weird news... and film it, obviously
News
peopleThis time as he’s awarded the Freedom of Stirling and handed an honorary degree
Arts & Entertainment
tv
Sport
sport
News
Matthew Mcnulty and Jessica Brown Findlay in 'Jamaica Inn'
mediaHundreds complain over dialogue levels in period drama
Voices
voicesMoyes' tragedy is one the Deputy PM understands all too well, says Matthew Norman
News
peopleJay Z and Beyoncé to buy £5.5m London townhouse
Voices
voicesMoyes' tragedy is one the Deputy PM understands all too well, says Matthew Norman
Arts & Entertainment
Rocker of ages: Chuck Berry
musicWhy do musicians play into old age?
News
Jilly's jewels: gardener Alan Titchmarsh
peopleCountry Life magazine's list of 'gallant' public figures throws light on what it means to be a gentleman in the modern world
Sport
John Terry goes down injured in the 70th minute
sportAtletico Madrid 0 Chelsea 0: Blues can finish the job at Stamford Bridge, but injuries to Terry and Cech are a concern for Mourinho
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Cover Supervisor Needed Nottingham/Derbyshire

    £3360 - £16800 per annum: Randstad Education Nottingham: Cover Supervisor requ...

    English Teacher

    £6720 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Nottingham: Urgently Required. En...

    Supply teachers needed in Cambridgeshire

    £21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Randstad are looking ...

    Geography Teacher

    £6720 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Nottingham: We are currently recr...

    Day In a Page

    Brits who migrate to Costa del Sol more unhappy than those who stay at home

    It's not always fun in the sun: Moving abroad does not guarantee happiness

    Brits who migrate to Costa del Sol more unhappy than those who stay at home
    Migrants in Britain a decade on: They came, they worked, they stayed in Lincolnshire

    Migrants in Britain a decade on

    They came, they worked, they stayed in Lincolnshire
    Chris Addison on swapping politics for pillow talk

    Chris Addison on swapping politics for pillow talk

    The 'Thick of It' favourite thinks the romcom is an 'awful genre'. So why is he happy with a starring role in Sky Living's new Lake District-set series 'Trying Again'?
    Why musicians play into their old age

    Why musicians play into their old age

    Nick Hasted looks at how they are driven by a burning desire to keep on entertaining fans despite risking ridicule
    How can you tell a gentleman?

    How can you tell a gentleman?

    A list of public figures with gallant attributes by Country Life magazine throws a fascinating light on what it means to be a gentleman in the modern world
    Pet a porter: posh pet pampering

    Pet a porter: posh pet pampering

    The duo behind Asos and Achica have launched a new venture offering haute couture to help make furry companions fashionable
    A History of the First World War in 100 moments: The mutiny that sent a ripple of fear through the Empire

    A History of the First World War in 100 moments

    The mutiny that sent a ripple of fear through the Empire
    Hot stuff: 10 best kettles

    Hot stuff: 10 best kettles

    Celebrate St George’s Day with a nice cup of tea. Now you just need to get the water boiled
    Sam Wallace: Why Giggs is perfect fit as Manchester United boss... in the longer term

    Sam Wallace

    Why Ryan Giggs is perfect fit as Manchester United boss... in the longer term
    Renaud Lavillenie: The sky's the limit for this pole vaulter's ambitions

    Renaud Lavillenie: The sky's the limit for this pole vaulter's ambitions

    Having smashed Sergei Bubka's 21-year-old record, the French phenomenon tells Simon Turnbull he can go higher
    Through the screen: British Pathé opens its archives

    Through the screen

    British Pathé opens its archives
    The man behind the papier mâché mask

    Frank Sidebottom

    The man behind the papier mâché mask
    Chris Marker: Mystic film-maker with a Midas touch

    Mystic film-maker with a Midas touch

    Chris Marker retrospective is a revelation
    Boston runs again: Thousands take to the streets for marathon as city honours dead and injured of last year's bombing

    Boston runs again

    Thousands of runners take to the streets as city honours dead of last year
    40 years of fostering and still holding the babies (and with no plans to retire)

    40 years of fostering and holding the babies

    In their seventies and still working as specialist foster parents