GM babies raise serious safety concerns, US expert warns

A senior US science advisor has warned that serious safety concerns remain over a controversial technique to create three-parent babies.

This comes ahead of the UK Parliament debating the legalisation of the procedure in the coming months.

Professor Evan Snyder, who chairs the scientific panel which advised the US Food and Drug Administration not to approve the technique earlier this year, cautioned that the full implications have “not been explored”.

The procedure involves replacing the nucleus in a healthy donor egg with the nuclear DNA from the prospective mother – resulting in a child with DNA from three parents.

More work

The stated aim of the technique is to create children free from mitochondrial disease, not to cure women and children who already have the condition.

Prof Snyder told The Independent: “It must be remembered this is not a treatment.”

He said that although the FDA was not completely against this “intervention”, everyone concluded “there is still more work to be done”.


Snyder commented that two to five more years of pre-clinical tests should be done “before scientists or someone on the FDA would feel comfortable that we’re assured of safety and efficacy”.

The UK Government has given its approval to techniques creating both three and four-parent babies, despite the majority of the public opposing the move.

If legalised, the UK would become the only country in the world to permit the two procedures.

Ethical concerns

The New Scientist magazine recently changed its stance on three-parent babies, warning that the UK needs to have a “serious debate” about the ethics and safety of three-parent babies.

The magazine previously dismissed ethical concerns, but said now it appears “we may have seriously underestimated the influence that mitochondria have”.

Last month, a group of leading international scientists warned the UK not to approve the technique due to safety concerns.

In a letter to the Commons Science and Technology Committee, the scientists said that the safety of the procedure, also known as mitochondrial replacement, “is not yet established sufficiently well to proceed to clinical trials”.

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