Don’t tell your spouse but there’s a chance your next baby could have 2 mommies. Seemingly straight out of a Philip K. Dick novel, researchers have discovered that a controversial new form of in vitro fertilization know as the “3-parent baby” technique might be a safe and effective way to reduce the hereditary risk of certain mitochondrial diseases such as muscular dystrophy. It’s much more than an excuse to say you had an IVF threesome.
The way it works is that a mother with a mitochondrial disease can have the mitochondria in her egg replaced by that from a woman who’s not at risk, giving the embryo technically two moms. Though illegal in the U.S. it was legalized last year by the U.K.’s parliament, but the British government called for more research before licensing the procedure. Now a study recently published in the journal Nature takes a baby step in that direction, looking at more than 500 eggs from 64 donors. Researchers found that after the transplant took place, not only did it greatly reduce the level faulty mitochondria, and there was no apparent difference between those embryos and the ones resulting from traditional IVF.
The findings will be considered by the U.K.’s Human Fertilisation and Embryology (oh, those Brits and their wacky spellings) before they decide to make the method available to the public. So it will likely be a while before these space-age babies are even a glimmer in the U.S.’s eye. If and when it becomes an option available to the public, it will probably be very complicated, expensive, and not for everyone. But for parents with relevant risks, it may give them good reason to have hope. Or to just move to England.