While having more than two biological parents sounds like science-fiction, recent medical advances have made it a big possibility for the future.
Scientists in the U.K. have recently gotten permission from the Human Fertilisation and Embryo Authority (HFEA) to carry out a new in vitro fertilization (IVF) technique in a clinic at Newcastle University that, if successful, could prevent children from being born with certain genetic diseases -- and give them three biological parents.
Developed by doctors in Newcastle, the treatment known as mitochondrial donation replaces the mother's faulty mitochondria with healthy mitochondria from another woman.
Mitochondria are present in almost every cell and create more than 90 percent of the energy needed by the body to sustain life and support organ function. So when they begin failing, organs are at risk of failing as well.
Unfortunately, mitochondrial disease primarily affects children. About one in 4,300 children with it are born every year, and there is no cure -- but that's what makes this treatment so significant. Mitochondrial DNA is only inherited through the mother's eggs, so replacing it with healthy samples could prevent the disease altogether and save lives.
"Patients will now be able to apply individually to the HFEA to undergo mitochondrial donation treatment at Newcastle, which will be life-changing for them, as they seek to avoid passing on serious genetic diseases to future generations," said Sally Cheshire, chair of HFEA.
To learn more about this groundbreaking technique, check out the video below.video-player-present