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Hope and Concern

To some people, three-person IVF or mitochondrial replacement is hope for preventing mitochondrial diseases from being passed on to the next generation, while to others, it is the beginning of the development of designer babies, the New York Times Magazine says.

In the US, the Food and Drug Administration regulates this technique, and recently held a hearing to consider allowing clinical trials of mitochondrial replacement.

Critics, Kim Tingley writes in the Times, argue that this amounts to genetically modifying people and that the consequences of doing so are uncertain.

At the same time, the approach has the potential to prevent serious mitochondrial diseases as well as the possibility to cure diseases like diabetes, Alzheimer's, and Parkinson's. And somatic cell nuclear transfer doesn't, researchers say, allow for the designing of human embryos.

"It offers them a hope that maybe they can't be fixed but future generations can avoid this disease," Michio Hirano, a mitochondrial specialist at Columbia University and New York-Presbyterian Hospital, says of his patients, "and I think that means a lot to them."