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Patient advocates and scientists launch push to lift ban on ‘three-parent IVF’

Some scientists, patient advocates, and bioethicists want to end the U.S. prohibition on mitochondrial replacement therapy, also known as "three-parent IVF."

Last week, a Greek woman with a history of multiple in vitro fertilization failures gave birth to a healthy baby with DNA from three biological parents. It was the first successful birth in a clinical trial of a controversial fertility treatment known as mitochondrial replacement therapy, which combines genetic material from the intended mother and father plus a female donor.

In the U.S., the procedure is effectively banned because of a congressional amendment passed in 2015 that’s been renewed every year since. But now, a group of scientists, patient advocates, and bioethicists want to see the prohibition lifted. The technique, they say, could help certain women who are carriers of serious genetic diseases have healthy, biologically related children.

In the first of a series of meetings meant to draft policy recommendations to Congress, stakeholders will meet Wednesday at Harvard Law School to discuss how to move forward in the U.S.

I. Glenn Cohen, one of the organizers of the event and faculty director of the school’s Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics, said a public discussion is needed in the wake of revelations late last year that a scientist. He worries that mitochondrial replacement therapy has “been swallowed up in the eddy of debates around germline gene editing,” which he sees as a separate and distinct technology.

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