Breaking News: 3 Parents

three parentsBREAKING NEWS! The first baby with DNA from three parents has just been born in Mexico. The mother carries the genes for a deadly syndrome that had already caused four miscarriages and her first two children to die. Scientists spliced the egg of a third donor parent together with the mother’s mitochondria and fertilised it with the father’s sperm.

The UK Government has agreed to the principle, but only if the specific procedure is safe. In this activity, students learn how it can help women with a serious inherited condition to have a healthy baby and why it is deemed so controversial. They use ethical arguments to decide whether they would recommend it to help a couple in need.

Learning objectives

  • Describe how to create an embryo with three parents, and explain how this technique could be used.
  • Make a decision about a new technology using ethical thinking.

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Curriculum link

England National Curriculum KS3:

  • Working Scientifically: Using ethical thinking to reflect on modern developments in science
  • Biology: Cells and organisation: the function of the mitochondria.
  • Reproduction in humans: Heredity as the process by which genetic information is transmitted from one generation to the next. A simple model of chromosomes, genes and DNA in heredity

GCSE Combined Science subject content:

  • Working Scientifically: Development of scientific thinking: explain everyday and technological applications of science; evaluate associated personal, social, economic and environmental implications; and make decisions based on the evaluation of evidence and arguments.
  • Biology: Inheritance, variation and evolution: Inheritance.
  • Cell biology: Prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells: explain how the main sub-cellular structures of eukaryotic cells are related to their functions, including the nucleus/genetic material, mitochondria.

Running the activity

Starter Initial reactions on the 3 parents procedure.
Core task Students do some research to find out if the procedure can help Jake and Maya have a healthy baby.
Plenary Can the procedure be used to create ‘designer babies’?
Extension Students play a game to consider the arguments for and against the procedure.
Plenary Students discuss what the game revealed about the decision and if they agree.
For detailed running notes, download the teachers guide.


Background information
This article outlines the procedure and the ethics. Good background reading for teachers.

UK MPs say yes

Update: news article from the BBC with video. UK MPs voted in favour of the procedure.

3 parents news story

Britain is set to become the first country in the world to create babies with the DNA of three people after the government set out new draft regulations

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  • violeta11 says:


    Very interesting topic, students responded positively to the material. Easy to follow.

  • diddy051163 says:

    Breaking News: 3 parents

    Looks like an excellent resource. As a student teacher, i would value some recommendations on pre-requisite learning topics needed to prepare the class to fully engage in this activity

  • cloudspotter says:

    Breaking News: 3 parents

    Very engaging, my year 8 mixed ability class really enjoyed it. Helps to tick off those AQA KS3 Working scientifically skills too

  • silviabq says:

    3 parents.

    Thanks for this thrilling activity. My students discovered the medical, ethical, sociological and technical aspects all together and they discuss in a very lively way almost forgetting the break. It was the first time I used this material and I really appreciated it.

  • rosinapa says:

    excellent activity

    An excellent activity for working CTS framework and important ethical aspects of science.

  • ghoshs2001 says:

    Excellent Resources!

    Your resources are extremely useful!
    Although I am yet to use it in class yet… I think they are very appropriate to cause some responsible thinking!

  • mcqscience says:

    Who am I? 3 Parents Activity

    My students have enjoyed this activity after hearing about it on the news. This also enable them to think and discuss about the ethical aspects of embryology and the social questions that arose. Thank you for this.

  • gwelsh says:

    Good at promoting discussion

    I used this to promote discussion in high ability and low ability groups. They really produced a strong SMSC discussion so well worth the lesson time used.

  • mjesus says:

    3 Parents

    Peço desculpa por não escrever em Inglês.

    A atividade é muito interessante, pois permite aos alunos pensarem como a medicina pode remediar ” alguns” casos que resultariam em doenças graves.

    • Tony Sherborne says:

      (English translation)

      The activity is very interesting because it allows students to think about how medicine can cure ” some ” cases that result in serious diseases.

  • juliegould says:

    fantastic resources

    Thanks for preparing these fantastic resources, this one was particularly topical having just had a large article in local newspaper- students enjoyed task and really got them thinking — looking forward to more of the same– thanks

  • ngraham11 says:

    Hard act to follow

    If you maintain the standard set in Upd8 you are destined to be a resounding success. Fantastic work -many thanks.

  • says:

    Do these resources exist yet?

    I might be being stupid but clicking on the available links does not give me access to anything I can use.
    The YouTube video link seems to be devoid of content too.

    • Gemma Young says:



      The resources certainly do exist! You have to register on the site to download them. Please click on ‘login’ in the top right and register your details. You will be sent a confirmation email. Click on the link in this, login and you will be able to access the resources.