Britain debates 3-parent babies and mitochondria

When we talk about nature and nurture in child rearing, nature meant mom and dad’s genes. What happens when a third party is introduced? That is what Britain is beginning to debate. It can stir a lot of feelings about traditional and progressive marriages. New concepts and biological research seem to point to mitochondria cellular components that help bring energy to different cells.

The long hope of British scientists is to help eliminate mitochondrial diseases that can result in nerve, brain, muscle, and organ diseases. The debate rides on many traditional and progressive issues. Based on theories and research, testing the effect of using a 3-parent baby with an extra sample of mitochondria may take generations to foresee a reasonable outcome. Then again, can science be inadvertently producing a class of monsters?

The British aren’t the only ones targeting mitochondria alterations at a genetic level. The United States Food and Drug Administration or FDA is pondering implications. The scope of questons include how genes are transmitted through subsequent generations.

As one of the countries offering nationwide health insurance, Britain’s stake is more than bottom-line economics. People with mitochondrial diseases are significant burdens to the nation’s insurance budget. Finding a way to reduce incidences is a good long-term investment for Britain, beyond moral indignation.

USA has no such program. Funding can be an economic disaster. With about 100 years as a gap for successful return, it is a risky long-term investment. There’s more study needed on mitochondria and how, when and why they mutate. As a business, can quality control be assured? How will research and clinical evaluations be studied with no or limited insurance policies? Is it profitable? Many US businesses that championed progress in the 1900’s are no longer around. Can USA rely that current champions will be around to see the results of 3-baby parenting?

The scientific goal is a noble one. Three-parent babies are human offspring with three genetic parents, created through a specialized form of in-vitro fertilization The future baby’s mitochondrial DNA comes from a third party. The procedure is intended to prevent mitochondrial diseases including muscular dystrophy and some heart and liver conditions that currently disable offspring with disabling conditions.

Essentially, nurture is a 2-parent baby. Nature is still 2 parents but with sperm from a “healthy” donor. You don’t have to change your bedroom furniture. The 3-parent baby is a choice of several options. At its early stage, it’s exciting and bringing mitochondria into the forefront as a means of fighting or preventing mitochondrial diseases.

Mitochondria are important aspects of a cell that theoretically account for 90% of the energy required to sustain cellular health. What can happen when the mitochondria fail? Diseases of the mitochondria appear to cause the most damage to cells of the brain, heart, liver, skeletal muscles, kidney and the endocrine and respiratory systems. Mitochondria are associated as powerhouses of genetic material within cells. They help provide energy to your entire body. It’s simple but, at the same time, mitochondrial disease can effect all of use to certain degrees.

Conventional biology instruction associates mitochondria at cellular levels but recent research cite evidence that it is oversimplified. It takes about 3000 genes to make a mitochondrion. Mitochondrial DNA encodes just 37 of these genes.Mitochondrial diseases are the result of either inherited or spontaneous mutations within different aspects of DNA which lead to altered functions of the proteins or RNA molecules that normally reside in mitochondria. Mitochondria are also associated for cholesterol metabolism, for estrogen and testosterone synthesis, for neurotransmitter metabolism, and for free radical production and detoxification. Cellular roles in transmitting genetic diseases seem a little more complicated than a crap shoot. In the human condition, diet and health management may be fighting the norms of your cells.

The North American Mitochondrial Disease Consortium or NAMDC is one of several research institutes that study the many roles that mitochondria play behind disabling diseases that can span lifetimes. Over a couple years, Britain scientists have been developing research and techniques to produce the first 3-parent babies as a revolution betting on healthier outcomes. As with all revolutions and research results, it is a role of dice type of gambling.

The stakes are high. Responsible parents often debate about having children when development or neuro and muscular diseases are in their lineage. Birthing babies with autism, muscular dystrophy, and others pose incredible stress to parents and growing children as they attempt to cope with disabilities in a very able world.

Equally disruptive is that some of these mitochondrial glitches may remain dormant through a life-span and attack adults at many ages. This can be equally shocking and often misdiagnosed by medical specialists. Many of these mitochondrial myopathies introduce vast symptoms that take normal people into tunnels of greater challenges, with no available cure.

The gamble of theories that challenge traditional thought of the etiologies of many diseases may actually be results of this gelatinous material that resides in each and every human cell.

For those suffering with neuropathies, myopathies, and countless other diseases that may benefit from 3-parent baby research, the results are of a very long range. We are counting on better statistics from future generations. Further mitochondrial research may result with better treatments for current diseases but is more hope than fact.

Faiths who have lost political struggles with homosexual marriages might see 3-parent babies as further affronts to religious traditions. The thought of a 3-parent baby does seem puzzling in battling something that causes mitochondrial disease. There are choices of pre-natal testing to discover whether your baby has mitochondrial disease. At that point, you might choose to abort the child. The Right to Life movement hotly debates this choice. For all god’s miracles, there are the victims.

Yet…if 3-parent baby research can play roles to route selective, healthy mitochondria and effectively reduce mitochondrial diseases, this may be a great thing. Research has a target to fund. The rest are matters of hopes and prayers.

Scientific reason is questionably noble. Many experiments, however, are like quixotic battles with dragons in search of a holy grail. Mitochondria and 3-parent babies may or may not partner with positive conclusions. In successive generations, there may be more invasive dilemmas facing humanity than mitochondrial disease. Or mitochondrial disease may be more pervasive. Is it a roll of the dice? Either the fictional Frankenstein or the majestic hero awaits. Beyond dreams lie answers that we may not live to realize. There are other choices to control mitochondria diseases and we may want to deal with their moral implications before jumping into newer, possibly consequential technologies.