The head of Britain's largest medical research charity has called on the Government to say when it will change the law on fertility treatment to allow the birth of babies with three genetic parents.
Sir Mark Walport, the director of the Wellcome Trust, was responding to a review of the technique known as “three-parent IVF” by the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, which concluded it would be an ethical option for affected families.
“In light of this report, we urge the Government to outline a timetable for considering amendments to legislation to permit use of the techniques if the Human Fertility and Embryology Authority's (HFEA) consultation in the autumn shows public support for this important technology.”
The procedure, banned in the UK, is aimed at helping the estimated 6,000 British adults who are living with mitochondrial disease — defects in structures that surround the cell nucleus.
The disease is inherited but is only passed down the maternal line. One in 6,500 children is thought to develop a more severe form of the disease, for which there is no cure. By removing the nucleus from an affected woman's egg, transferring it to the shell of an egg provided by a female donor who has healthy mitochondria, and then fertilising it with the sperm of the affected woman's partner, couples can avoid passing the disease to their children.