29 June 2013
Doctors,fertility experts here say such a legislation could boost medical tourism in the country, if used properly
The United Kingdom’s historic move in IVF treatment that could allow babies to be born with three genetic parents, which the nation announced on Friday, could revolutionise the minimisation of genetically transmitted birth defects.
The IVF-based technique that British parliamentarians are set to discuss by next year, is designed to avoid serious mitochondrial diseases inherited on the maternal side, like muscular dystrophy and cardiac problems. Mitochondria are the structures within cells that convert energy from food into a form that the body can use. The new technique will replace some of the unhealthy DNA with healthy DNA from the so-called ‘third parent’.
Reacting to the move, Dr Amit Patki, medical director of Fertility Associate in Mumbai, said, "Some mitochondrial diseases can cause genetic problems in children. Ninety per cent of these are passed on from the mother. These diseases are quite rare — you find one in every 10,000 affected. However, if a cumulative figure is taken, it is quite large. Moreover, these diseases cannot be treated. So it is a definitely a breakthrough in IVF treatment.
He added, "This is one step before cloning, so it will have to be used extremely carefully. In the UK, their Human Fertilisation and Embroyology Authority will keep a check on the misuse of this facility – it has definite potential for being misused."
Dr Sunita Tandulwadkar, chief IVF consultant and endoscopist with Ruby Hall Clinic, lauded the move, saying, "While the mitochondria in the oocyte are replaced by that of a healthy woman’s, the cytoplasm, or fluid outside the nucleus, remains the same, so maternal genetic problems in babies can be removed. In our country, we have skill and extremely ethical fertility specialists as well. If such a technology and legislation came here, it would be wonderful for us."
Echoing the sentiment, Dr Priya Selvaraj, assistant director in GG hospital of Chennai, said, "This is one step forward in cytoplasmic transfer. It is a very beneficial move, if not this, the only option a couple has is to change the egg or biopsy the embryo. This welcome technique will prevent genetic disorders that could kill people at the peak of their lives. If such a thing is legalised in India, it will even increase flourishing medical tourism, as we have the best of facilities at very affordable rates. However, if it has to be applied in India, the inheritance pattern of diseases will have to be checked first."
WHAT IS THE NEW TREATMENT?
The female ovum or egg consists of a mitochondria/nucleus that provides energy during the multiplication of the cells, which later form different organs of the baby. Every cell has a different chemical to help form different organs of the body. The mitochondria of the cell supply energy for cells to multiply. In case of a problem in mitochondria, energy required for the development of cells into an embryo falls short and there can be malformations. However, this mitochondria does not determine the physical features or genetics of the embryo. In this IVF treatment, the mitochondria of the original egg is removed if there is a defect, and replaced by mitochondria from a healthy woman, minimising the chances of geneticallytransmitted birth defects.