How Did Experts Conceive World's First 3-Parent Baby? Scientists Say They Risked Creating Mutant Baby

By Amanda Moore, Parent Herald April 05, 04:00 am

When American scientists experimented on the controversial three-parent baby in 2015, they knew they were up to something big. Now, as they finally revealed the technique to how they conceived the embryo, some experts grew concern that they almost created a mutant baby.

Dr. John Zhang, who headed the experimental team in New York, shared their work via the Reproductive BioMedicine Online journal (RBMO). The three-parent baby experiment involved a couple from Jordan. The wife carried the DNA for Leigh syndrome.

Leigh Syndrome is a progressive DNA disorder that kills the infant as soon as he's born, as per Genetic Home Reference. The family already lost two babies because of this and the mom didn't want the same for her third child, so they enlisted Zhang's help.

Zhang and his team performed the experiment using an IVF technique called mitochondrial replacement therapy (MRT). They removed a healthy donor egg's nucleus to replace the mom's egg cell so any genetic risks were eliminated. They fused the mom's egg with the donor egg, as per Scientific American.

The father's sperm fertilized the fused egg, thus making up the three-parent procedure. The team then transferred the fertilized egg in the mom's womb.

After 37 weeks, the Jordanian parents' baby, Hassan, was born on April 2016 and the mom's pregnancy was relatively without problems. Hassan was also developing as a healthy child.

"Now, for the first time, an egg with abnormal mitochondria can be changed to contain mostly normal mitochondria from a healthy egg donor," Professor Bart Fauser of RBMO said, as per EurekAlert. "This is a major change of technology and an obvious advantage for women who are at risk of passing such diseases on to the next generation."

The science community, however, has concerns about the long-term effects of this technique. Biologist Professor Robin Lovell-Badge cited Zhang's team was lucky they found a good donor egg, as per Life News. What if the fusion of the donor egg and the mom's egg, as well as the fertilization of the sperm, resulted in an abnormal baby?

The experiment highlighted that while Zhang's team did something groundbreaking, MRT remains risky. Some experts also raised ethical issues involving baby experiments.

"The mitochondria are participants in the development of the organism," biologist Professor Stuart Newman said. "This clearly makes any person [brought into being from the procedure] a product of wholesale genetic engineering."

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