Bioethics News

Children with two genetic mothers and a genetic father from a personalist bioethics

Two genetic mothers practice can genetically modify the germline and cause problems in offspring, by being genetically linked three people: two genetic mothers and a father.

On 3rd February 2015, the British House of Commons gave the green light to the possibility of using a technique called “mitochondrial transfer”, aimed at resolving the problem of women with mitochondrial diseases that can be transmitted to their children. This is what in the media has been called creating “babies with three genetic parents”.

This technique has undoubted ethical drawbacks that should be assessed

The aim of this technique is for children born to be unaffected by their mother’s mitochondrial defects. However this technique, which in principle seems very positive, has undoubted ethical drawbacks that should be assessed.

Mitochondrial are small organelles present in the cytoplasm of most cells. Their main function is to generate cell energy. Therefore, mutations in the DNA of the mitochondria (mtDNA) cause a lack of cell energy that can affect different organs, resulting in diseases that can become serious, and even lead to early death. These diseases affect approximately 1 in every 5000 newborns, while 1 in every 200 healthy individuals is a carrier of a pathological mitochondrial mutation, which could pass to their children and manifest itself as disease.

There is no effective treatment for these diseases at present, so medical research is aimed at developing techniques to prevent their transmission to offspring. Two new techniques have been developed in recent years: Maternal Spindle Transfer (MST) and Pronuclear Transfer (PNT). In PNT, two single cell embryos (zygotes) are produced in vitro, one from the egg of the mother with the abnormal mitochondria, and another from the egg of a donor with normal mitochondria.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.