HFEA launches its consultation on "Medical Frontiers: debating mitochondrial replacement" on Monday September 17.
The consultation will canvass public views on the issues raised by two new techniques under development by scientists at Newcastle University. The techniques are designed to allow women suffering from mitochondrial disease to have healthy children. Mitochondrial diseases are caused by faults in mitochondrial DNA. Any woman with such a disease passes her "bad mitochondria" on to her offspring who thus inherit the condition. The Newcastle researchers have developed ways of modifying embryos so that the "bad mitochondria" from the mother are replaced by "good mitochondria" from a (healthy) donor. These modified embryos thus contain DNA from three people: the vast majority of the DNA comes from the biological mother and father, with a tiny amount of (mitochondrial) DNA from the donor.
Currently, the law prohibits any embryo with altered DNA from being placed in a woman. However, it allows - subject to parliamentary approval - the Secretary of State to draft regulations to permit such a procedure for the purpose of preventing serious mitochondrial disease. The HFEA consultation runs until 7 December 2012; the results will be with Ministers in Spring 2013. Parliament could thus be asked to debate the issue any time after this. POST is preparing a POSTnote on this subject to be published in Spring 2013.