Doctor asked to stop advertising three-parent baby procedure

07 August 2017

Authorities have warned a fertility doctor in New York to stop advertising an experimental procedure called the three-person baby technique that seeks to prevent certain genetic conditions.

The procedure was used by the doctor, John Zhang, to help a Jordanian couple conceive a baby boy. The Washington Post reported that the technique used DNA from a mother, a father and an egg donor. According to the US Food and Drug Administration, Zhang had promised that his companies would not use the technology in the country without permission, but continued promoting it. The procedure was performed on the Jordanian couple abroad.

Zhang runs a facility called New Hope Fertility Clinic, along with a related company called Darwin Life Inc. On the facility's web site, it markets the fact that it has achieved the ''first live birth'' using this procedure, and lists other fertility treatments it offers.

The FDA's memo to Zhang mentioned marketing claims, including statements like ''the first proven treatment for certain genetic disorders.''

The mother of the baby boy was a carrier of Leigh syndrome, a severe neurological condition that could kill a child within a few years.

Zhang and his team replaced the diseased DNA from the mother with the healthy DNA from donor's egg and then fertilised the egg with the father's sperm.

The offspring, the ''three-parent baby'', inherits DNA from three people, although the donor egg's DNA contribution is very slight.

The FDA bars clinical research in people that involved genetically modifying an embryo. Also as Zhang's technique and the one child it produced were both still in their infancy, it was not known if it came with any unforeseen consequences.

The Verge quoted Leigh Turner, a bioethicist at the University of Minnesota who first brought the FDA's letter to public attention,''It's a Catch 22.''

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