Newcastle University experiments that create human embryos from three genetic parents kill and abuse human beings, a British pro-life group has said, reminding researchers that each embryo is “a member of the human family.”
The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) responded to scientists at Newcastle University in England who said they created embryos using genetic material from two women and one man to address mitochondrial diseases.
Damaged mitochondria, the “batteries” of the cell, are passed on by the mother. About one in 200 children is born each year with mutations in his or her mitochondrial DNA.
In most cases, this causes only mild disease if any symptoms appear.
Around one in 6,500 children is born with mitochondrial disease, which can cause serious and often fatal conditions such as muscular weakness, blindness and heart failure.
According to BBC News, the technique could allow the replacement of defective mitochondria during in-vitro fertilization (IVF).
Their research used newly conceived human embryos “left over” from IVF treatment. Nuclei from the union of the father’s sperm and the mother’s egg were removed, leaving behind the faulty mitochondria. The nuclei were then put into another egg from which the nucleus had been removed, but which retained its mitochondria.
The new embryo contained the genes from both parents plus a small amount of mitochondrial DNA from the donor egg, the BBC says.
The study’s lead author, Prof. Doug Turnbull, compared the technique to changing the battery on a laptop.
"The energy supply now works properly, but none of the information on the hard drive has been changed,” he commented.
The human embryos were used under a license granted by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA). The license was refused twice before being granted five years ago.
The law currently prevents the technique from being used in fertility treatment.
SPUC communications manager Anthony Ozimic commented on the experiments in a Thursday statement:
"None of the 80 or more embryos created by the Newcastle team were allowed to live. Each of those embryos were members of the human family, with a right to life equal to those of the scientists who killed them. Human life begins at conception. Any grounds for denying human rights to human embryos are arbitrary and self-serving.
“Creating embryonic children in the laboratory abuses them, by subjecting them to unnatural processes.”
Ozimic warned that the technique might lead to “developmental abnormalities,” as seen in IVF and cloning.
"Scientists should respect human life and pursue ethical alternatives which are much more likely to be successful in the long-term," he urged.