A ground-breaking medical technique dubbed “three-person IVF” could prevent Australian babies from being born with a deadly disease.
A Senate committee has recommended the government consider allowing the donation of genetic material to combat mitochondrial disease, which mothers can pass on to their children.
The rare disease passes on DNA mutations to babies, but mitochondrial donation can provide a way for children to be born unaffected.
The committee’s report noted the strong potential of mitochondrial donation to address the debilitating effects of inheriting mitochondrial disease.
The most serious symptoms affect one in 5000 babies, with mitochondrial disease potentially causing strokes, hearing and sight loss, and the inability to walk, eat, swallow or talk.
It can also lead to liver disease, diabetes, heart, respiratory and digestive problems and intellectual disabilities.
The report also recommends Australian health authorities facilitate access for patients to British treatment clinics, where mitochondrial donation is legal in IVF.
Greens senator and committee chair Rachel Siewert said the technique showed “very strong” potential for helping families affected by the disease.
“There is also no doubt in my mind that it would help affected people and those who have genetically linked children,” Senator Siewert told parliament.
Liberal senator Slade Brockman, who initiated the inquiry, described the technique as prospective, saying the disease’s sufferers still had a journey.
“It is a technique that does involve some ethical issues that need to be discussed more broadly in the Australian community rather than just a single Senate inquiry,” Senator Brockman said.