MEXICO CITY – Sitting in his spotless office in the New Hope Fertility Clinic in Mexico City, soft music playing in the hallway in the background, Doctor Alejandro Chávez-Badiola shows an affable smile. “’Three-parent babies’ is not the title I would have chosen for the treatment,” the clinic director says. “But if the press had not given it such an attractive title, the news of what we’re doing probably would not have had such an impact.”
Indeed, “three-parent baby” is easier to remember than “mitochondrial replacement treatment” (MRT), a relatively new procedure offered to couples who want to reduce the chance of passing certain genetic diseases onto their children.
It is controversial because the embryo takes eggs from two mothers.
Pregnancies through MRT, which is banned in the U.S., are achieved by transferring the nucleus from a mother’s egg to a donor egg, which in turn had its nucleus removed. The new egg is then fertilized by the father’s sperm and ultimately placed in the mother’s uterus.
Mexico City’s New Hope is a branch of a namesake New York City fertility clinic founded by John Zhang in 2014. Critics say New Hope picked Mexico merely because of its weak regulatory framework.
Dr. Chávez-Badiola, a gynecologist and obstetrician trained in Mexico and the United Kingdom, told Fox News he hopes to apply MRT to 20 pregnancies in the first half of 2017. He would not disclose, however, how many three-way pregnancies are underway at this time.
But there is a lot of controversy surrounding this IVF procedure. Dr. Tomer Singer, director of reproductive endocrinology at Lenox Hill, says it is too soon to call this birth a "miracle."
"We don't know that this kid is not going to be affected," Dr. Singer said. "We're going to have to wait several years before we can actually tell if this child is going to be healthy."
Dr. Singer acknowledges that this procedure is a medical achievement, but wants to stress that it's not FDA-approved and is banned in the United States. In his opinion we need many more years of research in a controlled environment before this procedure becomes more widespread.