“Three-Parent” Baby has Been Born in Greece, Making Medical History

Researchers at the Institute of Life in Athens, Greece, announced April 9 that medical history had been made with the birth of a healthy baby boy to a 32-year-old woman who had experienced several failed cycles of in-vitro fertilization (IVF). The boy was born with DNA from three different parents.

The boy, who weighed 6 pounds at birth, was born using a technique called maternal spindle transfer. The process involves removing the grouped-together DNA from a mother’s egg and placing it inside a donor egg from another woman, which has had its DNA removed. The donor’s egg with the mother’s genes is then fertilized and develops into an embryo that is transferred for pregnancy. This solves the problem of something inside the mother’s egg preventing a viable embryo from forming.

Mitochondria might have been a factor in the mother’s inability to conceive, though the woman was not diagnosed with any mitochondrial conditions. Mitochondria are found in every human cell and lie outside of the nuclear DNA that contains a cell’s genes. Maternal spindle transfer replaces the mother’s faulty mitochondria with the donor’s, making it possible for the egg to be fertilized and turn into an embryo.

Read: U.K. Doctors Granted License to Create 3-Parent GM Babies

In a statement, Dr. Panagiotis Psathas, president of the Institute, said:

“We are now in a position to make it possible for women with multiple for women with multiple IVF failures or rare mitochondrial genetic diseases to have a healthy child.”

Mitochondria powers cells, including the copying and dividing of DNA. Recent research shows they also play a vital role in reproduction, particularly helping eggs from older women to get fertilized, develop into a healthy embryo, and eventually a newborn.

And although the baby was born with genetic material from 3 parents, he will mostly have DNA from his biological parents.

There have been other similar births, but this is the first time that a baby has been born to a mother without mitochondrial disease. However, researchers say the case supports the theory that mitochondria may play a role in fertility treatments more broadly in women, even if they don’t suffer from mitochondrial conditions.

Read: FDA to Fertility Doctor – Stop Marketing 3-Parent Baby Technique

While the procedure offers hope to infertile women, it is not without ethical concerns. It was banned in the U.S. in 2015 over concerns that it is a form of genetic mutation. So, when a baby was born in 2016 with the help of a team from the New Hope Fertility Center in New York, the baby boy was born in Mexico. [2]

A three-parent baby was also born in Ukraine in 2017 following 15 years of failed attempts.

Sources:

[1] Time

[2] Insider

Boy or Girl – Baby Gender Selection Issues

Some parents have the possibility to opt for gender selection; however, being able to decide whether to have a baby boy or girl is a controversial issue.

Many couples expecting a baby do not think it’s a big issue whether they have a boy or a girl; however there are several medical, social, and personal reasons that could influence parents to recur to some form of gender selection.

Like many other controversial practices, the legality of gender selection, also known as sex selection, varies from country to country.

The Legality of Baby Gender Selection

The United States has perhaps some of the most relaxed laws regarding baby gender selection in the world. Most European countries and Australia, on the other hand, have bans on sex selection and only allow it for medical reasons. For example, if a parent is a carrier of a mutation or gene with more chances of manifesting itself in a certain gender, baby gender selection is valid. However, if parents simply wish to balance the ratio of boys and girls in their family, they are not allowed to recur to sex selection.

This has generated a form of medical tourism in which couples from countries where gender selection is illegal, like the UK, travel to the US in order to be able to choose whether to have a baby boy or girl.

On the other hand, sex selection is illegal in the two most populated countries on Earth, China and India. In these countries, baby gender selection has been performed clandestinely for many years and for reasons other than family balancing or avoiding genetic diseases. In these societies, having a baby boy is preferred mainly for cultural and economic reasons. Parents believe that boys have better chances of earning income and eventually support them when they reach an old age.

Methods of Baby Gender Selection

There are two major types of gender selection methods: the first one is called sperm sorting, and involves separating X-chromosome sperm from Y-chromosome sperm by flow cytometry, a purification technique in which chromosomes are suspended in a stream of sperm and identified by an electronic detector before being separated. Intra-uterine insemination or in-vitro fertilization can then be performed with the enriched sperm. The success rates for this method vary from 80% to 93%.

The other method, called pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, consists in generating several embryos through in-vitro fertilization, which are then genetically tested to determine a baby’s gender. The chosen embryos can then be implanted. This method has a success rate of almost 100%; however, it can be quite expensive, costing up to $15,000.

Issues Regarding Baby Gender Selection

While there are few objections against baby gender selection when it is performed for medical reasons, it has become a highly controversial issue when it is used for balancing the number of boys or girls in families. Some people raise the obvious ethical question of whether people who opt for gender selection are “playing God” by manipulating whether to have a baby boy or girl. Others believe that new parents will raise a baby more appropriately if he or she belongs to their preferred gender.

Gender Imbalance Caused by Baby Gender Selection

Gender selection has caused demographic concern in China and India since it has contributed to generate a gender imbalance in the populations of those countries. In some regions of China, for example, the sex ratio for newborns is 118:100, boys to girls. This phenomenon has in turn been associated with social problems such as an increase in violence and prostitution.

It seems like a logical solution for governments around the globe to legalize baby gender selection but to analyze the personal reasons why each couple intends to select a baby boy or girl. Gender selection for medical reasons should even be encouraged, since it could prevent serious genetic diseases such as cystic fibrosis, Huntington’s disease, and Haemophilia A. Balancing the gender ratio of a family should be accepted if by doing this, a healthy family environment is created. On the other hand, China and India have shown that baby gender selection as a result of a bias towards a particular gender can not only create a gender imbalance in the population, but contribute to social problems as well.