Approved by the British Ministry for Health, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), the British regulating authority, has just declared itself in favour of the controversial practice of three-parent in-vitro fertilisation (IVF).
It should be remembered that the purpose of this practice is to avoid the transmission by the mother of genetic disorders such as certain myopathies caused by defective mitochondrial DNA. It involves “removing the nucleus of a cell (taken from a woman with a mitochondrial mutation) and transferring it to a cell in a healthy woman from which the nucleus has been removed” (Gènéthique press review on July 1st, 2014).
In its decision, HFEA stated that this method “did not appear unsafe” and considered it to be “potentially useful“. The British Government hopes to pass legislation authorising three-parent IVF by the end of the year.
In the United States, the Food and drug Administration is currently examining the possibility of three-parent IVF as a preventive measure. (Gènéthique press review on February 24th, 2014).
For Dr. Jean-Paul Bonnefont, researcher at Inserm (Necker Children’s Hospital, Paris) this practice raises important ethical issues. Because “the triple-parent origin of DNA may affect interactions between the nucleus and mitochondria“. In other words, this practice raises the following question: “ could the introduction of mitochondrial DNA from a woman other than the one providing the nuclear DNA disrupt the dialogue between the mitochondria and the nucleus“?