UK lower house passes controversial ‘3-parent babies’ law

World Today

On Tuesday Feb. 3, 2015, British lawmakers have voted to allow scientists to use controversial techniques to create babies from the DNA of three people to prevent children from inheriting potentially fatal diseases from their mothers. (AP Photo/PA, Ben Birchall, File)

The United Kingdom’s lower house voted Tuesday to allow scientists to create babies from the DNA of three people. A move that could make Britain the first country in the world to genetically modify embryos which may prevent some children from inheriting potentially fatal diseases.

The vote in the House of Commons was 382-128 in favor. The bill must next be approved by the House of Lords before becoming law.

The controversial techniques aim to prevent mothers from passing on inherited diseases and involves altering a human egg or embryo before transferring it into the mother. British law currently forbids any such modification and critics say approving the techniques could lead to the creation of “designer babies.”

Defects in the mitochondria can result in diseases including muscular dystrophy, heart, kidney, and liver failure, and severe muscle weakness.

The technology is completely different from that used to create genetically-modified foods, where scientists typically select individual genes to be transferred from one organism into another.

In the U.K. House of Commons, health minister Jane Ellison kicked off the debate by urging support for the change.

“This is a bold step to take, but it is a considered and informed step,” Ellison said, of the proposed technology to help women with mitochondrial diseases.

Critics, however, say the techniques cross a fundamental scientific boundary, since the changes made to the embryos will be passed on to future generations.

Report complied with information from The Associated Press