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Surprising Science

A Solution to Genetic Disease: Give Children 3 Parents?

A new medical procedure which swaps some DNA contained in a woman's egg with a third person's could help eliminate certain genetic diseases, if the public finds the treatment ethical. 

What’s the Latest Development?

A possible solution to genetic diseases caused by mitochondrial mutationsthe mitochondria is an organelle inside individual cells and carries 37 unique genes of its ownmay be to give children three parents, genetically speaking. Because the male sperm contributes nothing to the mitochondria’s DNA, it is possible to swap it out for another female’s genetic information. If that female’s mitochondrial DNA had less chance of mutation, then perhaps the 1 in 5,000 chance that an infant is born with a mitochondrial genetic disease could be greatly reduced. 

What’s the Big Idea?

While the process of swapping out the genetic information held inside a woman’s egg may seem disturbing, it was only a short time ago that in vitro fertilization was equally suspect. “Some worry about the consequences of a third adult being involved in the traditionally two-person process of parenthood… Some worry that three-parented individuals may themselves be worried by knowledge of their origin. But until recently such questions have been hypothetical. Now they are real.” Currently, the British government is holding a public consultation on the ethics of the procedure. 

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