The birth of a child using a controversial ‘three-parent’ baby technique has reignited debate over the moral and ethical problems with genetic modification.
This week, New Scientist carried the story of a five month old child who was born using Maternal Spindle Transfer, a technique by which an embryo is created using genetic material from three parents.
In the UK, MPs have legislated for the creation of three- and four-parent babies, sparking concern from scientists, ethicists and Christians around the world.
New Scientist reported that the child was born in Mexico with help from a team of US-based scientists. His parents travelled to Mexico because the technique is not permitted in the US.
In February 2014, the Food and Drug Administration examined the techniques and concluded that: “There is just not enough preclinical data to suggest how to [treat patients] and how to do it safely.”
The aim of the technique – dubbed ‘mitochondrial replacement’ – is to create children free from mitochondrial disease, but research involves the destruction of embryos, and the birth of such children has raised wider moral and ethical questions.
Dr Calum MacKellar, of the Scottish Council on Human Bioethics, argues that the eugenics philosophy behind three- and four-parent babies is that “certain persons should exist and other persons should not exist”.
In an exclusive interview with The Christian Institute earlier this year, Dr MacKellar said: “From my own perspective, and other Christians, I cannot say that certain persons should exist and other persons should not exist.
“In my eyes, and I believe as well as a Christian in God’s eyes, all these persons are the same. Of the same worth and value and are loved just as much by God.”
A team of scientists at Newcastle University has been trialing a version of Pro-Nuclear Transfer (PNT), which transplants DNA from one embryo into another, creating a child with the involvement of four parents.
Their research involved the destruction of hundreds of human embryos and sidelined the concerns of a host of scientists and ethics experts.
In February last year, the UK became the only country in the world to legalise three- or four-parent baby techniques.
The House of Commons and the House of Lords both backed regulations allowing the techniques, despite warnings against editing the human germ-line.