The U.S. federal agency Food and Drug Administration (FDA) begins its consideration of biological procedures which, if successful, will allow to create genetically modified people, reports in an article for The New York Times Marcy Darnovsky, executive director of the Center for Genetics and Society.
“This is a dangerous step”, warns Darnovsky. According to her, these methods will “change all the cells in the bodies of children born as a result of their use, and these changes will be transmitted to future generations.”
We are talking about the methods that FDA calls the “mitochondrial manipulation technologies.” Nuclear material is extracted from the egg or embryo of a woman with hereditary mitochondrial disease and transplanted into a healthy egg or donor embryo (their own nuclear materials are removed). Thus the offspring will carry the genes of three people: mother, father and the donor.
The developers of these methods say that they will give the opportunity to sick women to give birth to healthy children with whom they will be genetically related. Some suggest to use them in cases of infertility associated with age. “The objectives are worthy, but the methods are particularly problematic in terms of consequences for society and health risks“, says the author. What if children or subsequent generations will manifest complications? And how far will we go in trying to create genetically engineered humans?
Many scientists and politicians call to apply the tools of human genetic engineering carefully and thoughtfully and use them aiming only to treat genetic disorders, but not to manipulate the hereditary traits of future children. “Genetic modification of sperm, eggs and embryos at an early stage of development should be strictly prohibited. Otherwise there is a risk of sliding into experiments on humans and high-tech eugenics“, the author writes.
However, it seems that the resistance to inherited gene modifications decreases in many countries. The idea of manipulating mitochondria is considered not only by the U.S., but also by the British authorities.
The author notes that women with mitochondrial diseases have less dangerous ways to have children (adoption, IVF using donor eggs).
“If we can do something, it does not mean that we should do it,” concludes Marcy Darnovsky.