Creating babies with three genetic parents via IVF in order to defeat inherited diseases has the broad support of the British public, according to a consultation into the controversial procedure.
A majority of Britons back mitochondrial replacement techniques, which are currently illegal, that could affect generations to come, fertility regulators found.
However, a large proportion of people were unsure or undecided about what they thought.
Results from a major consultation exercise conducted by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) were delivered to the Government on Wednesday, along with proposed policies and safeguards.
The public vote of support clears away a major hurdle in the path of changing the law to allow mitochondrial replacement.
But the HFEA fell short of explicitly recommending the move that would permit children to be conceived with the help of DNA donated by a second “mother”.
Instead, it was left to ministers to decide whether they should ask Parliament to agree to the procedures.
Experts believe mitochondrial replacement could lead to the eradication of a host of serious inherited diseases.
Critics argue that it is the start of a slippery slope towards “designer” babies and eugenics.
Mitochondria are rod-shaped power plants in cells that supply energy. They contain their own DNA which is only passed onto offspring by mothers.
Defects in mitochondrial DNA (mDNA) give rise to a range of potentially life-threatening diseases, including a form of muscular dystrophy and conditions leading to the loss of hearing and vision, heart problems and bowel disorders.
One in 200 children are born with a mitochondrial disease each year in the UK, and an estimated 6,000 adults are believed to be affected by the conditions.
The new techniques result in the damaged mDNA being replaced by a healthy version supplied by the female donor.
In the public consultation, 56% of those questioned said they were “very” or “fairly” positive about techniques which could prevent mitochondrial disease by altering genetic make-up during IVF. (Full Story)