According to New Scientist, a baby with DNA from three biological parents has been born using a new breakthrough IVF technique.
Yes, you read that right — not two biological parents, but three.
The baby, named Abrahim Hassan, is actually 5 months old now. According to PEOPLE, the baby’s doctors (and parents) wanted to wait a bit before going public with the news, once they were absolutely certain he hadn’t inherited a deadly gene from his mother, Ibtisam Shaban, who has Leigh syndrome.
The rare disorder, which attacks the central nervous system, is what previously led to the deaths of the mother’s first two babies. But after hearing about Dr. John Zhang and his groundbreaking “three parent technique,” the baby’s Jordanian parents decided to take a chance and reach out. Though Zhang practices at the New Hope Fertility Center in New York City, the controversial technique is not yet approved in the U.S., so the treatment reportedly took place in Mexico, where it is legal.
If you’re scratching your head over the science of it all, here’s the Cliff’s Notes version: Dr. Zhang reportedly implanted the nucleus from one of Shaban’s eggs into a donor’s egg that had its own nucleus removed. (This was done as a preventative measure, to lower the risk of the baby developing the fatal disorder his mother carries genes for.) That egg was then fertilized with the father’s sperm, resulting in an embryo that contained the father’s DNA, the mother’s DNA, and mitochondrial DNA from the donor.
From a scientific perspective, that’s all pretty amazing — especially since it worked, and by all accounts, the baby is healthy and happy, though Zhang and his team are continuing to monitor him.
Naturally, the news has been met with its fair share of controversy, particularly across the Twitterverse. Many have questioned the ethics of the procedure itself, as well as the lengths doctors went to to avoid U.S. restrictions.
But according to Dr. Zhang, all he’s concerned with is the fact that science has been able to give a couple the baby they so desperately wanted — and that that baby survived when it otherwise wouldn’t have. “To save lives is the ethical thing to do,” Zhang told New Scientist.
And in a statement to the UK’s Science Media Centre, Darren Griffin, a professor of genetics at the University of Kent, had this to say:
“With radical new treatments like this there are always challenging ethical issues. However, any concerns need to be balanced against the ramifications of not implementing such a technology when families are in need of it. […] The diseases to which this treatment is relevant are devastating and thus this treatment brings new hope to many families.”
Believe it or not, little Abrahim isn’t the first baby to ever be born with multiple parents’ DNA (as many across the Internet quickly pointed out). But he is the first to be born using this method, and his birth may in fact pave the way for other families facing similar obstacles.
For now, New Scientist shares that Dr. Zhang promises to reveal more details of findings next month, at the American Reproductive Technology World Congress in New York on October 13.