BREAKING 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.
- 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.
Try the activity
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.
This article outlines the procedure and the ethics. Good background reading for teachers.
Update: news article from the BBC with video. UK MPs voted in favour of the procedure.
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