Wednesday, September 3, 2014
Alana Saarinen seems like an average teenager, but her DNA is not. She has DNA from three different people. Between 30 and 50 people around the world share Saarinen’s unique situation of having three biological parents. This is due to a procedure called cytoplasmic transfer, which is an infertility treatment that was done in the late 1990s and early 2000s, before the FDA requested the clinics to stop the treatment in 2002. The procedure involved using the cytoplasm from a female donor and transferring it to the mother’s egg prior to the egg being fertilized by the father’s sperm.
The practice resulted in healthy babies being born to parents that had spent years trying to conceive a child, like Saarinen’s parents who had tried various methods to conceive for 10 years. But it also had possible side effects and raised ethical and safety issues, which concerned the FDA. Now, the UK is considering legalizing a similar procedure called mitochondrial replacement, which would be used to treat and cure genetic diseases. The debate on whether Parliament should pass the proposed legislation is stirring much controversy and debate on the issue.
See Charlotte Pritchard, The Girl With Three Biological Parents, BBC, Aug. 31, 2014.
Special thanks to Joel Dobris (Professor of Law, UC Davis School of Law) for bringing this article to my attention.