At the invitation of the Government, HFEA has launched a public consultation on the ethics of an IVF based technique designed to prevent the transmission of certain types of inherited disease from mother to child.

Approximately 1 in 200 children are born each year with a form of mitochondrial disease, the symptoms of which can include blindness, muscle weakness, intestinal disorders and heart disease. In some cases the condition is fatal.

Currently permitted only in research, the controversial technique - “three parent IVF” - involves either the transfer of the nucleus from the prospective mother’s egg (with the faulty mitochondria) into an enucleated donor egg with healthy mitochondria, to be fertilised by the prospective father’s sperm (maternal spindle transfer) or the transfer of the pronuclei from an embryo with faulty mitochondria into an enucleated donor embryo (pronuclear transfer). Any child born as a result of this technique would share DNA with three people, including the donor, and would pass that DNA onto future generations.

It is hoped that the consultation will elicit views from the public to assist in deciding where the balance sits between the desire to help families to have healthly children and the impact of genetic modification on the children themselves and on wider society.

The HFEA has launched an interactive consultation website which can be accessed at Medical Frontiers: debating mitochondria replacement. The findings of the consultation and public dialogue will be reported to the DH in March 2013.