Last week you couldn’t move for discussion and speculation about the debate of the draft Human Fertilisation and Embryology (Mitochondrial Donation) Regulations that was about to take place in the House of Commons. The media was full of ‘3 parent baby’ headlines and the callers to the Radio Wales morning phone-in were at times rather polarised! I only caught a little of what was said, but on one side there was reference to Nazis and slippery slopes on the other, people with personal experience of genetic conditions who’d lost loved ones and who were themselves living with uncertainty. Others commented that it was the first they’d heard of the proposals and were shocked at the content. In fact there have been three scientific reviews and a public consultation over the past five years. I guess that however hard an organisation try to consult the public on whatever the topic, most people will just not be aware of the work until the media whips up a frenzy
So the outcome of the vote was to pass the legislation, but what next? Reports suggested that the first baby could be born as early as next year. In reality (and I am no expert) I think it is likely to be longer than that – but for the families who take this path I hope not too long. The House of Lords still has to approve the regs and then it will be up to the HFEA to licence and monitor the centres who wish to offer the techniques. Alongside this, couples will need to be approved for the treatment and then the process really starts. IVF is notoriously complicated and success rates vary for many reasons. We shall just have to wait and see…
If you are still not entirely sure what this is all about then here are a few resources we’ve found:
A Q&A from the Wellcome Trust Centre for Mitochondrial Research at Newcastle University (leading proponents of this approach), a helpful illustration of the two proposed techniques (maternal spindle transfer or pro-nuclear transfer) at the BBC and a really useful fact sheet on mitochondrial inheritance from the Centre for Genetics Education in Australia which helps explain why there can be such variation in how family members are effected and how counselling for future pregnancies is complicated.
…and remember 37 mitochondrial genes in amongst the ~24,000 that come from your mum and dad hardly makes it ‘3 parents’ in my mind.