\ Babies with 3 Biological Parents | Columbia University Scientists and Engineers for a Better Society

Babies with 3 Biological Parents

Recently, a method has been discovered that would use in vitro fertilization to create an embryo consisting of the DNA from three people. Usually, a cell consists of nuclear DNA, half of which is from the mom and half of which is from the dad. In addition, cells have mitochondrial DNA, all of which are derived from the mom. The mitochondrial DNA has important functions for the cell. While there are two copies of every gene in the nucleus, there is only one copy of the mitochondrial gene, which means that a defect in a gene will cause a severe side effect. One in every 6, 500 babies is born with a mitochondrial disorder. The technique employed will have normal nuclear DNA but it will have mitochondrial DNA from a donor to correct for any defects in the original mitochondria. However, this raises up many questions about the morality of the technique and the implications of the technique in the future in creating “super babies”. Here we list the Pros and Cons of the technique that is pending approval from the FDA.


1. Can prevent mitochondrial diseases like muscular dystrophy, respiratory problems, heart disease, and liver disease.

2. It is like treating a disease – it does not involve genetic engineering.

3. The treatment can be passed down to future generations, thereby eliminating the potential for disease in the family.

4. The amount of mitochondrial DNA is much less than nuclear DNA, so the baby’s characteristics will not be changed significantly.

5. The treatment has the potential to help tens of thousands of babies each year.


1. At what point do we stop the manipulating? There is not brightline in legislation that states what is okay and not okay, so what is to stop us from manipulating more than just the mitochondria.

2. There is an ethical side to this; the baby has no say in what is being changed, and the change could result in a condition worse than before.

3. By engineering healthier humans with longer lifespans, the is the chance that overpopulation will become a serious issue.

4. How would genetic manipulation affect humans in the long-run? It is hard to tell since we can’t be sure how pathogens would react to changes in our gene pool?

5. Engineering a “superhuman” could, in the long run, result in a lack of genetic diversity.

Source: http://www.cnn.com/2014/02/26/health/ivf-mitochondria/index.html?iref=allsearch