Three-Parent Babies – Tackling Obesities scenario becomes reality

“By combining the DNA of parents with genetic material from a third person, scientists might have developed a way for women with rare genetic disorders to have healthy children. The bad news: The ethical complications involved are so messy that it might be a long time coming. The researchers outline their work in a study in this week’s Nature. On the surface, the idea is fairly simple. They took the nuclei out of the father’s sperm and the mother’s egg, and transplanted them into a donor’s egg cell that had its nucleus removed, but whose mitochondria remained in the cell’s cytoplasm. What you get is the genetics of both parents, plus the mitochondrial DNA of the host. This technique was pioneered in monkeys last summer, but researchers have now done a proof-of-principle study with human cells.”
via Discover Magazine

During my internship on the Tackling Obesities project at Foresight, DTI (now Government Office for Science) we were asked to respond and envision the impact of the predicted obesity epidemic over the next 40 years. This current scientific research development reflects some of the work I generated during this internship; one scenario Michael Burton and I generated was entitled P-Evolution Clinic.

P-Evolution Clinic: The Immersive Future Child Portrait Room

The P-Evo Clinic is the ultimate preventative measure against our obesity epidemic and a development of the Family Planning Association. It offers services to would-be parents, through advanced PGD (pre-implantation genetic diagnosis), to predict genetic variants in the not-yet-conceived child. Parents can prepare for possible special requirements their unborn child may need in an obesogenic environment. The experience of a visit to the P-EVO clinic is a rare blend of religious vision, health spa and theatrical spectacle. It was particular a service catered towards three different parents who want to find the opportuntiy to merge the ‘ideal’ DNA of each parent to prevent future predisposition to obesity disease.

This particular scenario was generated to raise discussion amongst the other scenario planners and researchers at Foresight to imagine the impact obesity will have on the health service. Now that this research has been published, where might the discussion continue?

What would be the parental negotiations if 3 parents were responsible for a child? What social services would exist? Would the average family be increased? How will housing change? Would and how will these Gattaca services exist? How would parents roles change? Would the mother become ever more a vehicle for reproduction ( see The Handmaids Tale by Margaret Atwood)

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