newborn baby flickr / Joe Cheng
The Third Degree

The United Kingdom Is Now The First Country To Legalize 3 Parent Babies

The concept of a “3-parent baby might seem like an episode of Maury, but it’s actually a complex genetic process where potentially disease-causing DNA from the mother is replaced with the DNA from a donor who doesn’t have that genetic predisposition. The UK just became the first country to legalize the controversial form of in vitro fertilization. So if you live there, you are the father.

British babies will be the first to be born with reduced risks of mitochondrial diseases, but the same adorable accents. While Parliament passed legislation that permitted 3-parent babies back in 2015, the Human Fertilization And Embryology Authority (HFEA) just got around to approving the “cautious use” of the technique. This means fertility clinics can apply for licenses immediately, and the first of these future-babies will be born around Christmas 2017. Science, man.

It’s important to note that this is an incredibly selective procedure. Newcastle University only plans to treat up to 25 carefully vetted patients, and they pioneered the procedure. Though The UK is the first to legalize this, at least 17 other babies were conceived back in 1997 through a similar procedure (before it was later outlawed). The studies on these babies have been criticized for not having the proper protocols in place, and most follow-up data has been limited to email surveys from parents.

The scientific community is understandably divided about what this means, and whether or not it’s frightening. Some opponents argue that babies born this way should be tracked longer before it’s deemed safe — which is a fair point. Others fear it’s a slippery slope to designer babies (and if those cost the same as designer handbags, they can take a hike). But for parents who face this specific, sometimes fatal risk, it’s hard not to see another option as a good thing. And if one day it gives British toddlers something to talk about with New Jersey adults, all the more amusing.

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