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Embryo Treatment

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Scientists at Newcastle University are among the researchers looking into three parent in vitro fertilization techniques. The goal is to create genetically modified embryos using healthy donor DNA so that mothers do not pass on incurable diseases to their children. Mitochondrial disease causes rare inherited conditions including fatal heart problems, brain disorders and muscular dystrophy.

"There isn't any treatment and cure for patients with mitochondrial disease so what we're trying to do is prevent the transmission from mother to child," says Professor Doug Turnbull.

One technique involves swapping faulty genetic material for healthy material between the mother's egg and a donor egg. Britain's chief medical officer says the research should go forward.

"We're not touching the nuclear DNA which comes from both parents, makes us look and act as we are, be as we are, its' about the power supply, the energy for the cell and only that," says chief medical examiner Dame Sally Davies.

But critics say creating a baby from the DNA of three people is unethical.

"It's crossing a line that many experts in ethics and generics and scientist generally are very concerned about worldwide," says Josephine Quintavalle.

Mitochondrial disease affects about one in 6,500 children around the world. Experts say only between 5 and 10 families a year would benefit from this new technique in Britain.

Rachel Kean has mitochondrial disease in her family.

"We are talking about preventing children living with or dying from forms of truly devastating diseases."

If the therapy proves to be safe and gets approval, the U.K. could be offering the treatment in just a few years.

Any final decision to offer the therapy would need to go to a vote in Parliament.

Similar research being done in the U.S.

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