The United Kingdom has given its permission for doctors to create the country’s first ever “three-person” babies for two women at risk of passing on a genetic condition to their kids.
The cases involve women who have mitochondrial diseases, which pass from mother to child, and can be deadly, the BBC reports. Three-person babies are made using an advanced form of IVF involving a donor egg, the mother’ egg, and the father’s sperm.
Doctors at the Newcastle Fertility Centre are set to carry out the procedure, with approval from the UK Fertility Regulator, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA).
The women’s identities have not been revealed, but the HFEA committee meeting said that they both suffered from myoclonic epilepsy with ragged red fibers, or MERRF syndrome. The committee said that the approval came from the “considerable risk” that any children the women might have will carry the disease.
The HFEA must approve every clinic and every patient before such a procedure can happen. In March, the Newcastle Fertility Centre was the first institution in the country to receive a license for three-person babies. The center expects to conduct the procedure on around 25 couples each year.
This is not the first country in the world that has carried out this sort of revolutionary technique, however. In 2016, doctors in New York performed the procedure for a Jordanian couple in Mexico, and the baby is reportedly still healthy.
Sarah Norcross, director of the Progress Educational Trust, said that this move by the HFEA is the “latest milestone in seeking to help parents avoid passing on mitochondrial disease to their children.” “The pace at which these treatments are being rolled out may seem slow, but this highly regulated and measured approach will ensure the highest standards of treatment and follow-up research. Options which for many years have been tantalizingly out of reach to patients are now a step closer,” she added.