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The New Science Of Three-Parent Babies

Mixing DNA from three people to produce one healthy baby. We’ll look at the controversial world of mitochondrial manipulation therapies to avoid inherited disease.

Gregory Han)" href="//s3.amazonaws.com/media.wbur.org/wordpress/12/files/2014/02/mito.jpg">An old model of a human mitochondria organelle. New regulations regarding manipulation of mitochondria could allow people with mitochondrial diseases to have disease-free children thanks to third-party chromosomes. (Flickr / Gregory Han)

An old model of a human mitochondria organelle. New regulations regarding manipulation of mitochondria could allow people with mitochondrial diseases to have disease-free children thanks to third-party chromosomes. (Flickr / Gregory Han)

Day two today of F.D.A. hearings on what you may have seen described in headlines as “three-parent babies.”  The genetic material of three adults combined to make one healthy baby.  Mom’s nuclear D.N.A., dad’s sperm, and mitochondrial D.N.A. from a donor, to avoid inheritable disease.  Backers say this reproductive technology will spare families from passing down suffering.  Maybe extend fertility for older moms.  Critics say this is the gateway to genetically modified human beings, high-tech eugenics, dystopia.  This hour On Point:  science, ethics, reproduction, and D.N.A. times three.

— Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Dina Fine Maron, associate editor at Scientific American. (@Dina_Maron)

Stefani Bush, singer, blogger and patient advocate. (@HopeRisingMusic)

Marcy Darnovsky, executive director of the Center for Genetics and Society.

Dr. James Grifo, program director of New York University’s Fertility Center.

From Tom’s Reading List

Scientific American: Making Babies with 3 Genetic Parents Gets FDA Hearing — “Reproductive technologies that marry DNA from three individuals will receive a trial in the court of public opinion this week. Such technologies may hold promise for averting certain genetically inherited diseases passed down via mutations to mitochondria, the cell’s battery pack.”

New York Times: Genetically Modified Babies — “Unfortunately, there are now worrisome signs that opposition to inheritable genetic modifications, written into law by dozens of countries, according to our count, may be weakening. British regulators are also considering mitochondrial manipulations, and proponents there, like their counterparts in the United States, want to move quickly to clinical trials.”

NBC News: New technique replaces diseased DNA, but would give kids two mothers –“A study published Wednesday in the journal Nature might offer a way to prevent children from inheriting such conditions in the future. Scientists in Oregon have found a way to remove the damaged genetic material and replace it with healthy DNA. The catch is it’s controversial, and children born using the technique would, technically, have three genetic parents. It’s just the kind of ethical debate that stopped such science dead in its tracks a decade ago.”

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