Three Person IVF to begin in UK

20 March 2017 by


A clinic in Newcastle upon Tyne has been granted the UK’s first licence to carry out a trial of “three person IVF” (Mitochondrial Replacement Therapy, or MRT). The fertility technique is intended to be used by couples who want to prevent genetic diseases being passed on to their children, due to faulty mitochondrial DNA. The process uses genetic material from the mother, father and a female donor, and replaces faulty genetic material in the mother’s DNA with the female donor’s genetic material.

There have already been a small number of three parent IVF pregnancies elsewhere in the world, resulting in reportedly healthy babies.

However the technique is not without its controversies and critics.

There is concern in some quarters that, given the relatively novel nature of the technique, it may have dangerous implications for babies born from its use. Genes interact with each other, and our understanding of how they do so is far from complete. Could replacing one set of inherited genetic material with a completely different set cause unexpected and unwanted interactions? Genes also interact with the environment, sometimes being switched on and off, and how this process would be affected by the presence of non-inherited mitochondrial DNA is not known.

There are also religious objections. Both the Church of England and the Catholic Church had expressed concerns about the technique to the UK government before it was legalised. Concerns have included the fact that human embryos are destroyed in the process. There are also fears that, although those in favour of the technique stress that the amount of genetic material replaced is tiny, it may play a more crucial role in identity than has been anticipated. Questions also arise about how to classify the relationship between the female donor and the child, carrying a small amount of her DNA.

Those in favour of the technique being used stress the enormous pain mitochondrial disorders cause families with the genetic traits. Allowing such families to avoid the risk of passing on genetic problems to their children would alleviate great suffering. Further, the amount of genetic material which is replaced is tiny (about 0.1%), so fears about the effect this may have on the identity of the individual and functioning of the genome as a whole may be overblown.

This is certainly not the first fertility technique to create great controversy.

Read more about fertility techniques and their legal implications here:

Fertility regulator wrongfully denied consent for mother’s surrogacy

Woman’s wish to donate unwanted embryos to scientific research rejected by Strasbourg Court

3 comments


  1. What is termed as Genetic defectives is currently not the case.
    Whatever we consume, be it Air, Water, Food have a crucial impact on ones Health. None can deny the deliberate poison in the Air, Water, Food which has resulted in a diseased nation.
    IVF is uncalled for.
    The source of the problem as above first needs to be addressed.

  2. My application and request:
    This is my kind ,kind and kind request to this respected human rights to save our global sweet innocent children including respected global personalities from the danger situation,danger diseases of skin infection, skin cancer to verify today’s and our/my previous facebooks information. Here,on many many occasions various colours/colors are given to children/adults male/female body,on face,close to eyes,close to nose,on any part of human body.As,a result skin infection/cancers are seen after few days/in a few moments as per various Facebook information. Ignorance is only responsible for this type of various human skin infections/cancers.
    Kindly,put this request information towards global human life safety and put the applicant’s name (my name) confidential.
    I/we have a productive dream for a global safety and peaceful atmosphere towards global children including respected adults/students-male/females/old aged personalities.
    With kindest regards.
    Dr.Muhammad Arif Rana
    DM-WONCA,International Affiliate Member-RCGP-UK.Member-MDS-USA,Member-Division-17-APA-USA,LM-LAB-Bangadesh,LM-BALID-Bangladesh,LM-BHRC-Dhaka,LM-IPM,LM-APD/NAPD,Life registered graduate-Dhaka University .

  3. Marilyn Crawshaw says:

    You have missed a key human rights issue that some of us raised in the HFEA consultation on Medical Frontiers and tried, unsuccessfully, to get raised in the Parliamentary debate – namely that children born as a result of this technique will be the only group of offspring not able to access information about the donor that was used (including their identity) given that all other individuals conceived through third party treatment in a licensed centre have that right (see our submission here: https://www.basw.co.uk/resource/?id=1468). Sadly, this issue was sidelined completely by the scientific and religious arguments. Many people said at the time and since that they had not realised this would be the outcome. The rather surprising argument set out to support such a denial of access to information was that too little DNA was passed on to the offspring. This flies in the face of evidence from (gamete) donor-conceived offspring that DNA is only one part of the reason that they welcome the right to access information; it also relates, variously, to their perceived human right to access information held about them, to their desire for information about their biographical as well as genetic history; to their curiosity about knowing who the person was that contributed to their conception and so on. We could see no valid reason for denying this.

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