Could the First Three-Parent Baby Hold Answers to Curing Genetic Disease?

A child was born using DNA from three people five months ago. Here's what you need to know—and why this matters for the future of curing genetic diseases.

Anonymous five-month-old baby sitting up Mastering_Microstock/Shutterstock
People who have genetic mutations deserve the chance to be parents too—and with this recent breakthrough, it just might become much easier and safer for them to do just that.

New Scientist just revealed that a five-month-old baby boy was the first child to be born with three parents. Yes, you read that right: This controversial technique involves using DNA from three adults in order to produce a single child.

This work could truly represent a miraculous possibility for parents who may not otherwise be able to birth healthy babies. The mother involved with this particular case is a carrier for Leigh syndrome—something she didn't realize until she gave birth to her first child. That baby was born with Leigh syndrome, which affects the nervous system and ultimately killed the child when she was just six years old. The couple had another child who only lived for eight months.

The parents, who live in Jordan, sought out help from John Zhang, M.D., of the New Hope Fertility Center, who had been working on the technique. Here's how he implemented it: He took the nucleus from one of the mother's eggs and added it to the third party donor's egg. This resulting egg (which included genetic information from the baby's mother and mitochondrial DNA from the donor) was then fertilized by the father's sperm. The process is a form of IVF, albeit with DNA from three adults instead of one.  

The baby born thanks to this technique is just five months old, and while there are concerns about the safety of this procedure, the baby appears to be disease-free at this point. 

Of course, this is a really new procedure, and time will tell if there are any risks associated with it—but it seems like it could represent a major, major breakthrough for so many couples. At this point, the procedure has not been approved in the US (the team performed it in Mexico). 

Dr. Zhang will present these results at Assisted Reproductive Technology World Congress later this month. "I believe this technique will revolutionize and change human reproduction," he wrote in a blog post for the fertility center.