World’s First Genetically Modified Baby Born Using the New ‘Three-Parent’ Technique

World’s First Genetically Modified Baby Born Using the New ‘Three-Parent’ Technique

The world’s first child with three parents has been born using a new DNA technique, researchers have reported.

Employing the trailblazing ‘three parent’ technique, the now five-month-old was conceived by his 36-year-old mother, who had four pregnancy losses and two dead children with Leigh syndrome. Leigh syndrome is a fatal disease that attacks the central nervous system, deteriorating motor and mental ability. The disease’s gene is located in the DNA, the mitochondria to be specific. Mitochondria fuels the cell’s energy, and is only inherited from the mother.

Published in the journal Fertility & Sterility, the international team of researchers detailed the first live birth with the ‘three parent’ technique.

They first removed the mitochondria DNA from the mother, but kept her nuclear DNA intact. That nuclear DNA was added to a donor egg, which in turn added new mitochondrial DNA for the unborn baby. Finally, the egg was fertilized with the father’s sperm.

Study co-author Dr. Taosheng Huang, of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, says he’s excited about the successful birth, and its implications.

“They’re so desperate. You feel hopeless for those people. You want to help them, but you don’t know how to do it. So when I see this success story … I think, that’s great.”

The result: the world’s first live birth of a boy, following a ‘spindle nuclear transfer’, as the study’s authors put it. The scientists intend to make a complete presentation on the procedure later next month.

Dr. John Zhang, of the New Hope Fertility Center in New York, who’s the head of the operation, performed the technique in Mexico; the three-parent technique is not yet approved in the U.S. But as Zhang said in an interview with New Scientist: “To save lives is the ethical thing to do.”

This new procedure would violate Canadian law, too.

“I think we need to reflect on the original intent of the law passed in 2004 governing reproductive cloning to see if it still fits, in light of the ability to do this procedure and to allow people to have healthy children,” explained Dr. Neal Sondheimer, a physician at SickKids Hospital in Toronto, who works in the mitochondrial mutation niche.

The three parent technique is reminiscent of a similar procedure in the 1990s, involving adding healthy mitochondria from a donor to an affected woman’s egg. Dozens of babies were born as a result, but due to consistent genetic disorders developing in the children, the procedure was halted.

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