A Jordanian baby has been born with the DNA of three parents and no, this isn't science fiction.
The now 5-month-old baby boy was born to Jordanian parents with the help of mitochondrial DNA from a donor, according to an exclusive reveal by New Scientist this week.
The Jordanian mother carries genes for Leigh syndrome, a fatal disorder that affects the developing nervous system, leading to the death of her first two children.
The couple turned to Dr. John Zhang and his team at the New Hope Fertility Center in New York City.
Zhang had already been working on a "three-parent" technique for situations just like this, however, such procedures are complicated and not approved by most countries.
A similar procedure approved in the United Kingdom fertilizes two embryos, one from the mother and one from a donor. However, one of the embryos is eventually destroyed, which went against the Muslim couple's beliefs. New Science explains how the procedure was adapted:
"As Muslims, they were opposed to the destruction of two embryos. So Zhang took a different approach, called spindle nuclear transfer. He removed the nucleus from one of the mother’s eggs and inserted it into a donor egg that had had its own nucleus removed. The resulting egg – with nuclear DNA from the mother and mitochondrial DNA from a donor – was then fertilized with the father’s sperm.
Zhang’s team used this approach to create five embryos, only one of which developed normally. This embryo was implanted in the mother and the child was born nine months later."
Since the technique was unorthodox, differing even from the one approved in the UK, the team conducted the procedure in Mexico where"there are no rules," according to Zhang
Although some are skeptical and caution about the ethics of the technique, Zhang dismissed these concerns saying: "To save lives is the ethical thing to do."
All evidence so far suggests the boy is healthy. But this isn't the first time embryologists tried to combine the DNA from three people to create a baby. In the 1990s, a different technique was attempted and some of the babies went on to develop genetic disorders, leading to a ban.
So far, signs suggest this won't be the case for this Jordanian baby and many in the scientific community have already responded to the news with great enthusiasm.
"This is great news and a huge deal," Dusko Ilic, a professor at King’s College London, said. "It’s revolutionary."