Doubts cast over three parent baby treatment

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Controversial new ‘three parent baby’ treatment – which aims to eliminate the risk of passing on inherited defects –could have hidden health dangers, according to Sheffield University scientists.

The process – mitochondrial replacement therapy or MR – seeks to replace damaged DNA by replacing it from material from a healthy donor.

It would effectively create a baby with DNA from three parents, but would prevent the female line from passing on mutations.

Problems which can be inherited range from mild learning difficulties to muscular dystrophy and life-threatening heart, muscle and brain diseases.

However, the technique means genetic material from the third party will be passed not only to the child, but to future generations too.

The Sheffield team believes suggestions that replacing DNA is nothing more than replacing the batteries of a camera may well need to be reconsidered.

Dr Klaus Reinhardt, team leader, said the process could result in profound changes, affecting individual development, cognitive behaviour and key health parameters in the recipient.

Dr Reinhardt said: “Many combinations of normal DNA and mitochondria don’t work so well together.

“For MR, we need to consider that every person is a different camera.

“Simply inserting new batteries can lead to complication, even if the donor is perfectly healthy.

“Complications occur more often in males, because mitochondria are only passed down from mothers, never from fathers. Any negative effects on a male’s DNA can, therefore, never be removed by evolution.”

Plans for MR are still to be approved by Parliament.