The Corner

Politics & Policy

Cellular Difficulties for First Three-Parent Baby?

I believe that the push to create “3-parent” babies is unethical human experimentation. I mean, these children will come from a broken and genetically modified egg, then fertilized.

This is all radically new and no one knows how these procedures might impact a child’s health throughout his or her life. 

We have a strong hint now that there could be problems. The first baby born from a version of this manufacturing approach was found to have potential mitochondrial DNA difficulties. From the Nature story:

The study also reveals that some diseased DNA from the mother was carried over inadvertently into the donor egg, which could have long-term repercussions for the child’s health…

The percentage of affected mitochondria can differ between tissues. Zhang’s paper reveals that just 2% of the mitochondrial DNA of cells in the boy’s urine came from the mother, but that figure rose as high as 9% in cells from the child’s circumcised foreskin.

Organs such as the heart or brain are impossible to test without invasive surgery.

Demonstrating my thesis that this is a form of unethical human experimentation, scientists want to monitor the boy’s health going forward. But the parents know what they don’t want to know (my emphasis):

It is not clear how these results will compare to the outcome of mitochondrial replacement in people. “Whatever we learn in a person will be completely new,” Egli says.

But the answers are not likely to come from the child born in Zhang’s clinic. The study says that the baby’s parents have refused any further mitochondrial testing on the baby unless there is a medical need…

The value of the experiment will be limited if scientists cannot track the boy as he grows, Egli says. “It looks like a rush to use this as a treatment and telling patients that this is the treatment, during a time when we still know very little about what the outcomes are.”

That says it all: “The value of the experiment.” “Rush to use as a treatment.”

This is a human being! 


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