The world’s first “three-parent baby” was born in Mexico using a gene combination technique performed by a New York team, according to a report in New Scientist released Monday.
Dr. John Zhang and his team at the New Hope Fertility Clinic in New York transplanted a critical nucleus from one of the mother’s eggs into a donated egg after its own nucleus was removed. The nucleus holds the primary strands of the mother’s genetic ‘DNA’ code that guides the embryo’s development.
But the donated egg still included a different genetic code in its normal energy-producing mitochondria component, The Independent reported. That different code came from the woman who donated the egg.
The mother’s nucleus in the donor’s egg was then fertilized with the father’s DNA-carrying sperm to create a three-gene human embryo.
Some scientists say that the “three-parent technique” is a misnomer because the nucleus of the sperm-fertilized egg has a normal mix of DNA code from the mother and father.
Critics say the procedure is like “playing God” with embryonic humans. Zhang’s team created five embryos in the lab, but four died.
Supporters say it allows some women with genetic diseases to have biologically-related healthy children.
In this first case, the child’s mother has a rare genetic disease called Leigh Syndrome, which is a fatal disorder that damages the developing nervous system .The disease is passed from parent to child via a flawed mitochondrial DNA.
While the mother is healthy, her first two children died as a result of the inherited Leigh Syndrome. One child lived until age six while the other lived eight months.
The nucleus-transplant procedure has been legalized in the UK, but is not legalized yet in the United States, The Independent reported.
Dr. Zhang told the New Scientist that the team went to Mexico where “there are no rules” to perform the procedure.
The New Scientist reports that the baby boy is now five months old, and should be monitored to detect any problems caused by the different genes in the mitochondria.
His parents are Jordanian and used a team of U.S.-based doctors who performed the procedure in Mexico.