The rate at which technology has advanced over the last few decades is nothing short of staggering, and the world of healthcare and medicine is no exception.
However, throughout the constant changes, one thing remains the same - there will always be some controversy and pushback against most new developments, particularly where birth and fertility are concerned.
Most people are familiar with the concept of in-vitro fertilization (IVF) - the process in which an egg is fertilized with sperm outside the body. It's fairly commonplace these days, but one particular case recently caused a great deal of controversy, due to the fact that the baby was conceived of three different people.
On Tuesday in Greece, a healthy baby boy was delivered by a 32-year-old woman who has a history of IVF failures. The experimental procedure involved using the mother’s DNA, sperm from the father and an egg from a donor woman.
According to the Institute of Life and Embryotools, where the research for the technique originated, the birth was made possible by a procedure called “maternal spindle transfer.”
This method is apparently used to help women with “fertility issues associated with multiple in vitro fertilization failures caused by cytoplasmic dysfunction of the oocytes or rare mitochondrial genetic diseases,” the organization said.
In other words, this kind of technique is used quite rarely, and this is the first time that three separate people have been involved in the conception of a baby.
The technique has been a long time in the making - in fact, it's taken a total of five years of research, followed by two and a half years of clinical work.
Dr. Panagiotis Psathas, president of the Institute of Life in Athens - says that the procedure's success is a major breakthrough, and was keen to emphasize the positive:
“A woman’s inalienable right to become a mother with her own genetic material became a reality,” he said in a press release, People notes.
Of course, the technique has its critics, and it's controversial for what some feel is the unnecessary transfer of the DNA for the IVF procedure.
It's not just religious folks, either. A professor of medicine, from Britain's prestigious Oxford University, expressed his concerns in an interview with the press:
“I’m concerned that there’s no proven need for the patient to have her genetic material removed from her eggs and transferred into the eggs of a donor,” Tim Child of the University of Oxford and medical director of The Fertility Partnership, told the BBC.
Proffessor Child also takes issue with cases like that of a family with mitochondrial disease complications who used the technique in Mexico in 2016 to have a baby, and another case of a 34-year-old mother in Ukraine who suffered from “unexplained infertility” who used the treatment.
“The risks of the technique aren’t entirely known, though may be considered acceptable if being used to treat mitochondrial disease, but not in this situation,” Child continued. “The patient may have conceived even if a further standard IVF cycle had been used.”