Skip to content

    Infertility & Reproduction Health Center

    Font Size
    A
    A
    A

    FDA Explores '3-Person' Embryo Fertilization

    Meant to prevent genetic diseases in children, the procedure raises ethical issues

    WebMD News from HealthDay

    By Dennis Thompson

    HealthDay Reporter

    TUESDAY, Feb. 25, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- U.S. Food and Drug Administration hearings opened Tuesday on a controversial fertilization technique that uses the DNA from three people -- two women and one man -- with the goal of preventing inherited genetic diseases.

    The technique involves the unfertilized eggs, or "oocytes," from two females. Parts of each egg are combined to weed out inherited genetic disorders contained in one woman's DNA, and the resulting healthy egg is then fertilized using a male's sperm.

    The FDA's two-day hearing is meant to provide a forum for discussing how this technique might be tested in human clinical trials.

    But the discussion is expected to veer into the ethics of manipulating human genetics to produce "perfect" babies.

    "The potential benefits are huge, but the potential harms are also huge," said Dr. Michelle Huckaby Lewis, a faculty member at the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics and the Genetics and Public Policy Center, in Washington, D.C.

    The procedure could have unintended health consequences both for newborns and for future generations, as the genetic tinkering reverberates through time, Lewis said.

    In addition, she said, the technique raises troubling questions of parental rights and family structure.

    "When you use a technology in a new way like this, it really challenges our notions of what it means to be a parent and what it means to be a family," Lewis said.

    The hearing was prompted by the work of Shoukhrat Mitalipov, an associate scientist at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU).

    Mitalipov has used the fertilization technique to produce five healthy monkeys, and is seeking FDA approval to begin human trials involving women who carry defective genes that could pass on severe illnesses to their children.

    He is on hand at the hearing to explain the process, which he described Monday to the Associated Press as "gene correction" rather than "gene modification."

    "We want to replace these mutated genes, which by nature have become pathogenic to humans," Mitalipov told the AP. "We're reversing them back to normal, so I don't understand why you would be opposing that."

    1 | 2 | 3

    Today on WebMD

    Four pregnant women standing in a row
    How much do you know about conception?
    Couple with surrogate mother
    Which one is right for you?
     
    couple lying in grass holding hands
    Why Dad's health matters.
    couple viewing positive pregnancy test
    6 ways to improve your chances.
     
    Which Treatment Is Right For You
    Slideshow
    Conception Myths
    Article
     
    eddleman prepare your body pregnancy
    Video
    Conception
    Slideshow
     
    Charting Your Fertility Cycle
    Article
    Fertility Specialist
    Article
     
    Understanding Fertility Symptoms
    Article
    invitro fertilization
    Article
     

    WebMD Special Sections