Fertility Blog

Could Three-parent IVF Come to the United States?

In March 2017, three-parent in vitro fertilization (IVF), sometimes also called three-person IVF, was legalized in the United Kingdom. In the days and weeks since this announcement was made, many have wondered if this procedure could be legalized in the United States as well. Three-parent IVF offers a truly unique opportunity for future parents who have certain genetic conditions that they do not wish to pass down to their offspring, but the procedure is only legal in a handful of countries.

What is three-parent IVF?
Three-parent IVF is used in cases where the female patient is a carrier of a mitochondrial disease that she does not wish to pass down to her future child or children. In this procedure, DNA from the intended mother is used in combination with DNA from an egg donor who does not have the mother’s mitochondrial disease.

Essentially, the donor’s healthy DNA is exchanged with the mother’s to remove the genetic abnormality. Therefore, the mother with the mitochondrial condition is still the biological mother of her child. In fact, the egg donor’s DNA only accounts for about .2% of the baby’s genetics.

What kind of mitochondrial conditions is three-parent IVF used for?
There are many different types of mitochondrial diseases found in female fertility patients, some of which include Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, Leigh’s disease, and Leber's hereditary optic neuropathy (LHON).

Will three-person IVF come to the U.S. soon?
Although considered as highly beneficial to patients who have a mitochondrial disease and wish to have biological children, some believe that the procedure is controversial. Critics have called the procedure an excuse for parents to create “designer babies,” believing that three-person IVF can open doors for other procedures where DNA is manipulated in an IVF lratory. Negotiations to consider the procedure have been stalled by the FDA thus far, but many fertility specialists across the country are very interested in three-person IVF’s potential.

What patients can do now
Since three-parent IVF is not legal in the U.S., patients with certain genetic or chromosomal disorders can consider using Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD). With PGD, embryos are screened prior to the transfer stage in IVF treatment. PGD is commonly used in cases of recurrent miscarriage, multiple failed IVF cycles or when a parent carries a known genetic abnormality such as Huntington’s disease, sickle cell disease, spinal muscular atrophy, cystic fibrosis, breast cancer, ovarian cancer and Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease.