A U.K. research team is making serious progress in the production of three-parent embryos. A few three-parented children already walk among us, the product of some work done in the late 1990s. But the process was banned by the Food and Drug Administration shortly thereafter. Research continues in the U.K.
The goal is to prevent children inheriting a rare group of serious diseases caused by faulty mitochondria, the powerhouses in our cells, [which are inherited from the mother only]. Mitochondrial diseases affect at least 1 in 8000 people, probably more, and there are no treatments.
Here's how it works:
The procedure would involve fertilising a woman's egg by in-vitro fertilisation outside the body and transplanting the fertilised nucleus to an egg from another woman which has had its nucleus removed.
Any child born following implantation of such an embryo would have cells containing a nucleus with genes from both parents, and mitochondria from a woman other than their mother.
So while a certain stripe of social conservatives are wringing their hands and fretting about the possibility that gay marriage might open the door for polyamory, scientists are on the verge of assembling babies with three biological parents. (Most of the genetic material will be from the two parents of the first fertilized egg, of course, mitochondria have only a smidge of genetic material. Still…)