British lawmakers have voted in favor of making Britain the first country in the world to allow test tube babies from three different people to help prevent serious genetic diseases.
The House of Commons voted 382 to 128 to allow mitochondrial donation through a controversial amendment to the 2008 Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act, according to The Guardian newspaper.
The new legislation came over warnings it was a step toward creating “three-parent” designer babies.
The measure goes to the House of Lords where it is likely to be passed.
Lawmakers were allowed a free vote on the issue of conscience.
Both the Conservative and Labor parties said it is an important scientific step forward that did not amount to genetic modification.
Jane Ellison, the Conservative public health minister, said the techniques provided in the regulations offer the only hope for some women who carry mitochondrial diseases to have “healthy, genetically related children” who would not suffer from its “devastating and often fatal consequences”.
She said mitochondrial DNA made up just over half of a hundredth percent of a person’s overall DNA and none of the nuclear DNA that determines personal characteristics and traits.
Critics of the motion had been given hope of defeating it after the Church of England and the Catholic Church in England and Wales said the technique might not be safe or ethical.
Mitochondrial diseases are caused by genetic faults in the DNA of tiny structures that provide power for the body’s cells.
The DNA is held separately to the 20,000 genes that influence a person’s identity, such as their looks and personality. Because mothers alone pass mitochondria on to children, the diseases are only passed down the maternal line.
About 40 scientists from 14 countries have urged the British legislature to approve laws allowing mitochondrial DNA transfer.
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