Is it a boy or a girl? Moms and dads (to be) are over the moon to welcome a little human being into the world. We all know where babies come from. At least, so we think. The baby will have one mum and one dad, right? Or maybe two mums or two dads. But what about three parents? Two mums and one dad, how could that exist?
Some new techniques are developed to 'create' an embryo.
Why the need?
Let's start by discussing why scientists were trying to create an alternative to the ‘normal’ way of making babies. It started out with some couples having trouble getting a healthy baby or getting pregnant at all. There are some genetic disorders that only the mum can transfer, through the mitochondrial DNA. This is a special piece of DNA that only women have, and what only they can pass along. So if the mum has a predisposition for some particular genetic disorder, the pregnancy will not last, or the child will be affected and will not live for long. To avoid this, scientists discovered that they can adapt the mitochondrial DNA in the embryo.
How do they do it?
So, scientists can adapt the mitochondrial DNA in the embryo. But how can they do this?
When the egg of the woman contains the mitochondrial DNA that is corrupt, this can be taken out of the egg and replaced by the mitochondrial DNA of an egg of a healthy woman. Next, the original egg, with the new mitochondrial DNA can be fertilized with the original father’s sperm. This egg will be 'healthy' and little problems will occur later on in the life of the child. An example is a teenage girl, whose mother had undergone an infertility treatment called cytoplasmic transfer. The girl never had any problems in her life which are related to the change in mitochondrial DNA. This leads to children with two mums and one dad.
What could happen in the future is that this technique can help many couples that couldn't have (healthy) children, to start a healthy family. Together with other techniques in genetic modification, people will be able to choose all the characteristics of their future babies. The science is ready, but the question is if society is ready for these drastic techniques.