Three-parent embryo

PUBLISHED : Monday, 18 February, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 18 February, 2008, 12:00am

Three-parent embryos are another scientific breakthrough that have caused controversy, followed news that embryos whose genetic materials come from a man and two women have been successfully created earlier this month.

A research team at The Newcastle University in Britain reveals that, for the first time in genetic engineering, they are able to manipulate three DNA sources to correct genetic flaws that can cause incurable disease in one embryo. The breakthrough benefits mothers who have inherited genetic defects in their mitochondria, a tiny organ inside a cell in which DNA is also found. This DNA only functions as a tool to manufacture protein. Mitochondrial malfunction relates to 40 serious diseases that can kill in early childhood.

The three-parent technique involves transferring the nuclear DNA - the genetic blueprint of all lives - of a fertilised egg which has a flaw in its mitochondrial DNA to a healthy egg cell which has had its nuclear DNA removed. It is just a 'swap' or 'transport' of mitochondria, as the scientists described. The resulting child would grow according to the genetic materials of his parents.