First 'three-parent baby' could be born this year in the UK

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Doctors in Newcastle have been awarded the first licence to create "three-parent" babies in Britain.

Researchers have been granted permission to carry out a new 'three-parent baby' fertility technique that prevents children from inheriting lethal genetic diseases.

The first child born applying this method came to the world in 2106.

Newcastle University asked for permission from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) to undertake the procedure, known as mitochondrial donation treatment, at the end of a year ago. During this procedure, scientists harvest the nucleus and DNA from the mother's egg and implant it in the donor egg, which is then fertilized and implanted through IVF.

The UK was the first country to legalise MRT, in which a tiny amount of DNA from a third woman is added to genetic information from its mother and father.

The UK Fertility Regulator, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, must approve every clinic and every patient before the procedure can take place.

The team aim to offer treatment to 25 women a year and are now looking for egg donors.

Prof Sir Doug Turnbull, the director of the Wellcome Centre for mitochondrial research at Newcastle University, said: "I am delighted for patients as this will allow women with mitochondria DNA mutations the opportunity for more reproductive choice".

"It's a great testament to the regulatory system here in the United Kingdom that research innovation can be applied in treatment".

Mitochondria appears as small structures inside almost every cell in the human body that convert food into energy.

If the mother's mitochondrial DNA is faulty, it is possible that she may pass on a number of rare but serious mitochondrial diseases, including muscle weakness, diabetes, heart problems, epilepsy and stroke-like episodes.

In infants, the condition is often fatal.

Alternatively, DNA from a fertilised egg could be transplanted into a donated egg which contains healthy mitochondria.

Mitochondrial donation is a technique in which damaged mitochondria inherited from the mother is replaced with healthy mitochondria from a donor to prevent mitochondrial diseases from being passed on from the mother to the baby.

However, everything that defines physical and personality traits still comes from parents, the report added.

Britain became the first country in the world formally to allow mitochondrial replacement therapy when the HFEA gave a cautious green light to the procedure past year.