The birth of the first “three-parent baby”: a dangerous and irresponsible precedent

Publié le 6 Sep, 2015

Yesterday, the New Scientist disclosed the birth of the “first three-parent” child  – information that was later confirmed by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM). The child, Abrahim Hassan, was born on 6 April in Mexico: “The medical team deliberately went to Mexico ‘where no relevant legislation exists’ to escape existing legislation in the United States”.


The team of international doctors was led by Dr. John Zhang from the New Hope Fertility Centre, “private specialist, well known in the MAP sector and with connections in numerous countries”. Doctors transferred the nuclear DNA from the mother into five eggs of a female donor whose nuclei had been removed. These genetically modified eggs were fertilised with the father’s sperm. Out of the five embryos created, “four were viable, and one of those was normal and was reimplanted”. This technique is “intended to prevent the birth of children with mitochondrial diseases”, transmitted by the mother. “This form of experimental procreation was used in this Jordanian family to prevent the risk of transmitting Leigh’s syndrome”, from which two of the couple’s children had already died. In addition, the scientists “ensured that the child was male”, to prevent the genetic modification from being passed on to the next generation.


The couple had previously turned down a technique authorised in Great Britain on the pretext that “this approach would have destroyed two embryos”. In France, the “first three-parent babies will be born this autumn”.


This announcement is controversial. Many scientists regret “the lack of debate on an issue with such heavy stakes”: “several lots of experimental data indicate that greater caution should be exercised. The main risk lies in gradual changes in mitochondrial functions and the delayed onset of disease symptoms”. Others believe that “the team should have previously submitted a full clinical study with all of the data for examination by experts” as this technique is “risky and can have unforeseen consequences on the health of the child and of future generations“. This “irresponsible, non-ethical action creates a dangerous precedent”, announced Marcy Darnovsky, Director of the Center for Genetics and Society, a NGO based in Berkeley, California.


The medical team in question will answer questions during the annual ASRM conference to be held in October.

Jean Yves Nau (07/09/2015)

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