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FDA Examines Three-Person Embryo Technique

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WASHINGTON (AP) -- Genetic experts cautioned that it could take decades to confirm the safety of an experimental technique, meant to prevent children from inheriting debilitating diseases, that would create babies from the DNA of three people.


The Food and Drug Administration heard from supporters and opponents of the provocative technique at a two-day meeting, as the agency considers whether to greenlight testing in women who have defective genes linked to blindness, organ failure and many other inheritable diseases.


Preliminary testing in animals suggests that combining the DNA of two parents with that of a third female donor could allow prospective mothers to give birth to healthy children. But even experts in the field warned that researchers would have to follow the offspring for many years to see if they are truly healthy.


"The end of the experiment will come decades later," said Michigan State University's Keith Latham, in a presentation Tuesday before the FDA and its advisory panel. "It's going to take us that long to figure out the health of the progeny produced from these procedures."


The FDA explicitly framed its public meeting as a "technical" discussion on the feasibility of safely testing the artificial fertilization technique in humans. In a statement read at the outset, FDA staffers acknowledged the "ethical and social policy issues related to genetic modification of eggs and embryos," but said such issues were "outside the scope of this meeting."
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