IVF

First 'Three Parent' Baby Born in Mexico

Due to FDA ban parents must resort to treatments abroad in order to have a healthy baby

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Threeparentbaby
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Great news! American fertility specialists replaced defective mitochondria in a embryo resulting in the birth of a healthy baby boy five months ago. The bad news is that due to a fifteen year Food and Drug Administration ban, the procedure had to be performed in Mexico.

Mitochondria are the energy producing organelles in each of our cells which carry their own small genomes and are passed down to children from their mothers. Broken mitochondrial genes cause a wide variety of illnesses from which about 1 in 4,000 people suffer (that is about the same rate as cystic fibrosis among European-descended Americans). In this specific case, the mother carries a mitochondrial mutation associated with Leigh's Disease that causes brain lesions and which killed her first two children. The cure was achieved, as the New Scientist explains:

[New Hope Fertility Center specialist John] Zhang … removed the nucleus from one of the mother's eggs and inserted it into a donor egg that had had its own nucleus removed. The resulting egg – with nuclear DNA from the mother and mitochondrial DNA from a donor – was then fertilised with the father's sperm.

Zhang's team used this approach to create five embryos, only one of which developed normally. This embryo was implanted in the mother and the child was born nine months later.

Hearty congratulations are in order to the parents, the baby, and the team that made it possible! Well, not everyone actually agrees with that sentiment. CNN reports:

"It's unfortunate to have people decide they're just going to quite willingly engage in this kind of reproductive tourism—to go outside of a system that is in place to create the safest, most scientifically reproducible way forward," said Lori P. Knowles, assistant professor, adjunct, at the University of Alberta School of Public Health. "That's the precedent then, that if you think you can do it, then let's just hop the border and see what happens, hope for the best."

Cannot bioethicists hear themselves! Having endured four miscarriages and two dead children, this mother had already seen "what happens," so of course, she was hoping for best. So should we all.

The parents in this case obviously felt forced to engage in reproductive tourism because the "system that is in place to create the safest … way forward" has, in fact, blocked all progress in this field for a decade and a half. While headlines around the world hailed this achievement as the first three-parent baby, that's actually not the case. Back in 2000, researchers at St. Barnabas Hospital in New Jersey developed the same technique that Zhang used. As I reported earlier:

Researchers hit on the idea of curing mitochondrial diseases by replacing defective mitochondria with healthy ones derived from eggs donated by other women. Back in 2001, fertility specialist Jacques Cohen and his colleagues at St. Barnabas Hospital in New Jersey transferred ooplasm containing mitochondria from healthy donor eggs to the eggs of women experiencing infertility. The experiments resulted in the births of 15 healthy babies. …

When the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) got wind of the new development, the agency asserted that it had jurisdiction over the treatments and promptly banned them. And that is where matters have ever since stood, as women continued to endure infertility and more babies were born suffering from mitochondrial diseases. Very ethical.

The "safest system" is evidently the system that says take no risks at all. Better more babies born naturally with dread diseases than allowing parents to try to have healthy children by availing themselves of the unnatural methods of science. If regulators and bioethicists don't want "reproductive tourism," then stop banning research here. Instead of better safe than sorry, we will instead end up more sorry than safe.

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  1. Well, no. I’m sure not even FDA would assert authority over the treatment. What they do is claim the materials required are medical devices being sold in interstate commerce.

    1. R: Yes, you are correct. But many of the same “materials” are used for regular IVF too. Oh, wait, the first successful IVF babies were born in Britain. Hmmm. I wonder if there is a pattern?

      1. They say the products are distinct due to their intended use. Like how they’ll say the evidence is that you intend this oxygen tank to be used by the customer to make ozone for an unlicensed therapeutic use, rather than to do oxyacetylene welding.

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  2. engage in reproductive tourism

    Perhaps another expression choice of words?

    1. HumanClump of cells trafficking?

  3. Shut the fuck up, Lori P. Knowles. Also, what’s a floppy-headed hoser Canuck doing defending the FDA?

    1. Yeah, with a title like ‘assistant professor, adjunct, at the University of Alberta School of Public Health’ it almost sounds like we’ve turned the corner in our quest to hunt bioethicists to extinction.

      1. Yeah, I’m not sure how you are both an assistant professor and adjunct.

        1. Assistant adjunct professor? IOW, not even a full adjunct?

          Whatever she is, she’s a fucking idiot.

          1. Assistant to the adjunct professor.

            /Michael Scott

  4. What’s next? Four parents? Five? Twenty parents? One of whom is a duck? As usual, Bill O’Reilly was right.

    1. Well, it does take a village.

    2. Heather Has Two Mommies – AND A DAD!

      1. Adam and Eve, Not Adam, Eve and Steve!

      2. True story: When I 1st heard the controversy about that book, I assumed it was about bigamy.

  5. Ron — Could CRISPR or something similar edit away the mitochondria defects? Are there too many mitochondria in a cell for this to be practical? Wikipedia isn’t entirely helpful, saying there are up to 2000. Could not the DNA which creates mitochondria be edited?

    1. The best answer is that mitochondrial DNA is different and, generally, less consequential.

      The big, fun and complex packing, unpacking, and editing goes on in the nucleus where the DNA is much more readily accessible and there’s only one. Mitochondrial DNA is harder to target as mitochondria are generally less permeable to all sorts of stuff than the nucleus and, while fixing a majority of mitochondria is possible, it’s (obviously) much easier and effective just to enucleate.

  6. I don’t know, it seems like it would be easier to force two parents to vaccinate their kid than three.

  7. I was wondering what “three parent” actually meant. Thanks for explaining it. It’s a cool technique, and I learned something today.

    1. A baby from three parents doesn’t impress me much.

      Engineer three parents from a baby, then I’ll be impressed.

  8. Do we want Sith Lords? cause messing around with a kids midiclorians is how you get Sith Lords

  9. Meanwhile, somewhere out there is a kid in an orphanage, praying once again today that some good family will adopt him and rescue him from his living hell.

    1. Meanwhile, people other than Domestic Dissident are minding their own business and making their own decisions.

      Like proggies everywhere, Domestic Dissident wants other people to do what he says, not what he does.

    2. Yeah, how dare people get pregnant.

    3. Part of me would prefer to adopt if we have kids, but the biological urge to reproduce is pretty strong.

      1. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the biological urge to reproduce. But not only is this genetically defective woman taking the defintion of biological reproduction and stretching it to the outer limits, even the method she used only worked one of out five times.

        Seems pretty extreme to me, especially when you take into account there are a lot of healthy kids out there that could use a loving family.

        1. And how many kids have you adopted?

          Why is her business any of your business?

          Who the hell appointed you Proggie-in-Chief to run her life?

        2. You know who else was concerned about “genetic defectives” reproducing?

        3. Yeah, it is pretty extreme. But it worked.

          Today, I intend to feed my family despite there being a lot of hungry kids out there. I hope those hungry kids get something to eat. Sometimes my kids bring their hungry friends over and I feed them too.

        4. 1 out of 5 isnt far off from nature.

          Heck, actually, what percent of natural eggs end up in a successful pregnancy? Its a lot lower than that.

        5. there are a lot of healthy kids out there that could use a loving family

          [citation needed]

          The adoption waiting lists for healthy kids are pretty long. There is a reason people go to other countries to adopt. Or jump to the top of the list but accepting special needs kids.

          1. On the other hand the adoption process itself is tedious and demeaning. My dad’s girlfriend elected to adopt her daughter’s child after her daughter lost custody for being a royal fuckhead. The process required she complete several full-day classes on childcare, in addition to a full vetting of her and my dad. To adopt her own grandchild. Ludicrous.

            Then again, she did raise the royal fuckhead which necessitated all this, so maybe they have a point.

            1. You’re absolutely right that the government bears most of the blame for this absurd situation (as is so often the case). The hoops they make people jump through are unquestionably over the top extreme.

        6. … this genetically defective woman…

          Fuck off, Eugenicist slaver.

    4. Yeah, fuck these people for wanting a child with their nuclear DNA but without their mitochondrial defects! Who the fuck do they think they are?! THEY’RE PLAYING GOD!!1!!11!!!!!! THE HORROR!!11!11!!!!!!!

      1. Not to mention the foster families and adoption agencies taking him in and caring for him while, simultaneously, trying to find him a permanent home, fuck those people.

        Personally, the people I can’t stand are the people not charged with caring for children who don’t go out of their way to put these kids out of their misery. Sure, you might incur a little jail time but how fucked up is your moral compass to forego that while leaving these kids to rot in literal living hell day-in, day-out.

    5. Fun fact: Mikey was adopted, but his new parents ended up giving him back.

  10. The “safest system” is evidently the system that says take no risks at all. Better more babies born naturally with dread diseases than allowing parents to try to have healthy children by availing themselves of the unnatural methods of science.

    Nope, that second part ain’t their concern. All they’re looking at is making sure gene splicing is proven safe and effective before anybody is allowed to experiment with it. They’re not concerned with “trade-offs”, they don’t know what those are. It’s the same damn way they all work – all they know is what’s seen, not what’s unseen. Bastiat wrote about the phenomenon a long time ago.

    1. there is no gene splicing , mitochondrial DNA is distinct .

      1. You’ll have to excuse him, he saw that “documentary” Splice once and now he gets wigged out at anything that even sounds a little like gene splicing, even when it’s nothing of the sort.

  11. reproductive tourism

    Everything about this phrase is fantastic. Adorable. Makes me just sit back and ponder, with the most delicious morbid amusement, what sort of mind works this way.

    Reproductive tourism. Can we crank-call the Chamber of Commerce about this?

    1. PShaw. Pregnat Chinese women have been engaging in reproductive tourism in California for years.

    2. I call dibs on Wombnb… Wombbnb? No Wombnb anyway… dibs!

      1. AirWomb, obvi. It probably already exists.

    3. More worried about reproductive terrorism tbh.

  12. “It’s unfortunate to have people decide they’re just going to quite willingly engage in this kind of reproductive tourism — to go outside of a system that is in place to create the safest, most scientifically reproducible way forward,” said Lori P. Knowles, assistant professor, adjunct, at the University of Alberta School of Public Health.

    Fuck off, slaver.

    The first act of President King Cynical Asshole after rising power will be to abolish the FDA.

    Check that, that will be my second act. My first act will be to change the country’s motto from “E Pluribus Unum” to “Fuck off, slaver.”

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    1. You sell your eggs sans nucleus?

  14. So are these jobs lost to Mexico due to overregulation or jobs Americans just won’t do?

  15. “Due to FDA ban parents must resort to treatments abroad in order to have a healthy baby”

    No, they need to be minimally qualified to adopt and file paperwork (which could always be easier, of course)

    “Zhang’s team used this approach to create five embryos, only one of which developed normally. This embryo was implanted in the mother and the child was born nine months later.

    “Hearty congratulations are in order to the parents…”

    Because only four of their five kids died?

    1. Or perhaps the “spare” embryos were sent to that same happy place as little Timmy’s dog?

  16. I have mixed feelings about this. We have no idea what kind of birth defects can be caused by this technology.

    I am a geneticist, so I think I have a clue on the topic.

    If we knew it were safe, I’d have no problem with it.

    If we knew it weren’t safe, I’d ban it.

    I have no idea how you’d conduct the clinical trial ethically. I hope they have a lot of really good long term animal data. Preferably in chimps.

  17. RE: First ‘Three Parent’ Baby Born in Mexico
    Due to FDA ban parents must resort to treatments abroad in order to have a healthy baby

    Not receiving explicit written permission from the FDA to have a baby is the only true crime here.
    Since when did people in this country decide to have children without the blessing of The State?
    It makes you wonder what this country is coming to.

  18. Scientists should have better things to do than cater to the irrational whims of yuppies.

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