What the genome replacement tech involves

These are some of the ethical, legal and social issues posed by mitochondrial genome replacement technology:

Q Who is mitochondrial genome replacement therapy for?

A The technology may be the only chance for women with a high risk of passing on mitochondrial disorders to have a baby that they are genetically related to.

The consultation paper by the Bioethics Advisory Committee says choosing to have one's own child through these methods - rather than adopting a child or using a donated egg - could be argued as an exercise of reproductive autonomy, which should be respected.

Q Does it mean that a child will have three parents?

A  A child born through these methods will have the genetic make-up of three people - two women and a man.

However, the complete set of mitochondrial DNA - which is contributed by the female donor - only amounts to 37 genes. In comparison, the nuclear genome - the set of DNA found in a cell's nucleus - has between 20,000 and 22,000 genes.

It could also be argued that the definition of parenthood extends beyond just genetics.

Q What about the potential impact on children born through this new method?

A  As the mitochondrial genome replacement technology is so new, nobody knows if it could cause health problems in children conceived through it, especially in the long term.

Scientists cannot completely rule out the possibility that the mitochondrial disorders that this technology is supposed to prevent may still occur.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 20, 2018, with the headline 'What the genome replacement tech involves'. Print Edition | Subscribe