Britain is set to be the first country in the world to approve creating a three-parent baby, as a way of allowing people with mitochondrial defects to have healthy children of their own.
This would be done by taking the nucleus from a fertilised egg of a woman with these defects and inserting it into the egg of a healthy woman from which the nucleus has been removed.
The biological mother and father would be the main parents, because the nucleus carries their main genes, while the third parent provides the rest of the egg.
Research suggests that using mitochondria from a donor egg can prevent mitochondrial diseases. It is envisaged that up to 10 couples a year would benefit from the treatment.
However, Dr Peter Saunders, who blogs at Christian medical comment and is CEO of Christian Medical Fellowship, urged caution. He questioned the lack of responsible debate around the issue, the safety of the techniques, the ethical issues involved and whether the technology would actually work.
He said, ‘This is not about finding a cure. It is about preventing people with [mitochondrial disease] being born. We need first to be clear that these new technologies, even if they are eventually shown to work, will do nothing for the thousands of people already suffering from mitochondrial disease or for those who will be born with it in the future.
He added: ‘Let’s keep a cool head and instead concentrate on finding real treatments and providing better support for affected individuals and their families, rather than spending limited health resources on unethical, risky and highly uncertain high-tech solutions that will most likely never deliver’.