An advisory panel to the FDA is investigating the merits of a technique dubbed "three-parent IVF," a method opponents worry could lead to so-called "designer babies," the Washington Post reports. The method in question aims to help mothers who carry risky DNA mutations—causing blindness or epilepsy, for instance—avoid passing them to their children. While the panel is looking only into scientific questions surrounding the procedure, observers' concerns range from safety to whether the technique could lead to parents choosing their children's genetic traits. Speakers at public hearings said the procedure involved "an unprecedented level of experimentation on non-consenting human subjects" and could make babies into "manufactured products," the StarTribune reports.
The technique is called "three-parent" because it requires replacing the mitochondria in a mother's egg with mitochondria from a healthy woman; then, the father's sperm would be used to fertilize the egg before it was implanted in the mother. FDA approval would mark the first time the agency has greenlighted genetic modification affecting later generations, says an opponent. As for the panel, its chair cited "great concern for the well-being of these kids," and suggested that right now, there's "probably not enough data either in animals or in vitro to conclusively move on to human trials." (Read more FDA stories.)