Up until very recently, a baby could only have two parents. In fact, it still seems crazy to think that a baby could be born out of any more than that. Regardless, it’s now a complete and proven possibility. For the first time ever, a child has been born with the DNA of three unique ‘parents’.
The birth comes as a relief to his two guardian parents. The boy’s mother is a carrier for a genetic illness that does not have any impact on her. However, when giving a sample of her DNA to create a new life, she inadvertently transmits the gene to the child, giving them a disease known as Leigh Syndrome.
Leigh Syndrome is a debilitating nervous condition and severely handicaps children both physically and mentally the moment they are born. The parents have already lost two children, one age 6 and the other 8 months, to this terrible illness.
For their third attempt at having a child, the parents knew they didn’t want their baby to risk suffering again and having to go through the heartbreak of burying a child once more.
They consulted New York City’s Dr. John Zhang, a leading specialist in the field, who told them about the idea of spindle nuclear transfer, which would allow him to take the nucleus of the mother’s egg and insert it into a donor egg with its nucleus removed. In theory, this would prevent her from passing on the disease contained within her mitochondria, located outside of the nucleus, while still passing on her genetic material.
The most difficult part, however, wasn’t the procedure itself. It was finding a place to legally perform the procedure. The controversial technique is only legal in the UK and there was absolutely no way they would be able to do it within the United States where Dr. Zhang was licensed.
Enter the loopholes. Because neighboring country Mexico is much less strict on its regulations in regard to what doctors can and can’t practice (aka the old ‘there’s no law saying I can’t‘), as well as which doctors can practice, the medical team flew down south of the border to perform the procedure.
It has now been 5 months since the child was born. A healthy baby boy, the procedure was a complete success. Experts are predicting this could save many of children’s lives around the world, being able to keep parents from transmitting dangerous genetic illnesses to their children.
Now it’s just a matter of seeing whether countries will begin lifting laws banning the practice after seeing what it can do for families everywhere.