A major breakthrough in modern reproductive medicine has been announced: the first baby with three genetic parents was born under the radar in New York about 5 months ago. It sounds radical, but the reality is that it is more like 2.001 parents, not 3. In this case, the mother’s faulty mitochondrial DNA in were replaced with healthy mitochondrial DNA from a donor egg. The faulty mitochondrial DNA that was removed was likely to have caused devastating health consequences on her offspring. The “switch'” only accounted for 37 genes out of the 20,000+ cells carried by DNA contained in a cell’s nucleus – and, those 37 genes that were “switched” do not account for any traits.
In Canada, the Assisted Human Reproduction Act strictly prohibits the alteration of a genome. The penalties are severe: $500,000 or 10 years in prison, or both. But, that legislation was passed in 2004 and many argue that it is out of date with today’s advanced reproductive techniques. If three parent genetic engineering used in this form did not alter any traits, then the “designer baby” fear that seems to be the basis for the 2004 prohibition needs to be revisited. At least the discussion here in Canada should start.
Here is a link to the Washington Post article: