Any changes to a person’s mitochondria will be passed down the maternal line through the mitochondrial DNA to the next generation, and if the child is a daughter, to the one after that and so on. This is referred to as affecting the female germline.
Germline modifications have never been permitted on embryos before and this may raise important social and ethical questions.
Click on the video below to hear a range of views on this issue.
The opinions in these videos are not necessarily those of the HFEA but are a sample of a wider range of views on this topic
It has been said that modifying the germ line would affect the child’s right to an open future. This means that a decision is made, on a future child’s behalf, which affects the range of life options which are available to him or her. In the case of mitochondrial disease the decision would be to ensure the future child and their future children are free from disease.
Many people think that a life free from disease is a more open one than a life with mitochondrial disease. Yet the decision to perform mitochondria replacement is an irreversible choice not just for the future child, but future generations too.
A concern we heard in the dialogue events was that mitochondria replacement was tampering with nature. Some feel that germ line modification is a step too far into a natural biological process. Others feel that, because we already intervene in other areas of reproduction and medicine, it doesn’t make sense to apply this argument to mitochondria replacement.