188 Children’s Legal Rights Journal [Vol. 37:2 2017]
It is hard to imagine a future in which “designer babies” are possible. However, it only
takes an analysis of the recent timeline of developments in the realm of genetic engineering to see
the writing on the wall.
In February 2015, lawmakers in the United Kingdom voted to allow in-vitro fertilization26
using a technique called mitochondrial replacement therapy (MRT), which replaces the
mitochondrial DNA of the mother with that of a donor to prevent the resulting child from being
born with an inherited mitochondrial disease.27 In addition to producing a child free of
mitochondrial disease, this technique has the side effect of producing a child from three genetic
parents.28 Because the technique affects all the cells of the resulting child—including reproductive
cells—MRT is a form of germline genetic modification which can be passed down to a subject
Around March of 2015, scientists around the world broke into a collective alarm about a
genetic engineering technique called CRISPR,30 which revolutionized the field of genetic
engineering.31 Prior to its inception, performing genetic edits was a long, difficult, and expensive
task.32 CRISPR enabled scientists to perform genetic modifications cheaply and accurately.33 The
technology is so vastly superior to what was previously available, that the scientific community
called for a moratorium on the use of CRISPR in human embryos.34 The call for the moratorium
was the result of the concern that the rise of the technology made the genetic engineering of
humans an imminent possibility.35
26 See In Vitro Fertilization (IVF), MAYO CLINIC, http://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/in-vitro-
27 Laura Smith-Spark, UK Lawmakers Approve ‘3-Parent Babies’ Law, CNN (Mar. 3, 2015),
http://www.cnn.com/2015/02/03/health/uk-ivf-3-person-babies/. See also James Masters, ‘Three-Parent’ Babies
Approved in The UK, CNN (Dec. 15, 2016), http://www.cnn.com/2016/12/15/health/babies-three-people-
embryos/ index.html. On December 2016, the fertility regulator of the U.K. gave its approval to the treatment,
meaning that the first U.K. children born from MRT could arrive in 2017. Id.
28 Smith-Spark, supra note 27. To understand the reason for the term “three-parent baby,” it is necessary to review
the biology of the cell. The mitochondria are the only other part of the cell besides the nucleus which contain genetic
material, 37 genes to be precise. See Genetics Home Reference, NIH: U.S. NATIONAL LIBRARY OF MEDICINE,
https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/primer/basics/mtdna. (visited May 12, 2017). Mitochondrial replacement therapy produces a
so-called “three parent baby” because it utilizes the healthy mitochondria from a donor, which contains DNA from
that donor; therefore, in addition of the nuclear DNA from the intended parents, the resulting child will have the
DNA from a third person. Shoukhrat Mitalipov & Don P. Wolf, Clinical and Ethical Implications of Mitochondrial
Gene Transfer, 25 TRENDS IN ENDOCRINOLOGY & METABOLISM 5 (2014).
29 Marcy Darnovsky, A Slippery Slope to Human Germline Modification, 499 NATURE 127, 127 (July 9, 2013),
http://www.nature.com/news/a-slippery-slope-to-human-germline-modification-1.13358. See also Masahito
Tachibana et al., Towards Germline Gene Therapy of Inherited Mitochondrial Diseases, 493 NATURE 627, 627 (Jan.
2013) (explaining that mitochondrial DNA is passed down from the woman’s egg to the offspring).
30 CRISPR stands for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats. Ekaterina Pak, CRISPR: A Game-Changing Genetic Engineering Technique, HARVARD UNIVERSITY, GRADUATE SCHOOL OF ARTS AND SCIENCES:
SCIENCE IN THE NEWS; (July 31, 2014), http://sitn.hms.harvard.edu/flash/2014/crispr-a-game-changing-genetic-
engineering-technique/. See also What is CRISPR-Cas9?, YOURGENOME, http://www.yourgenome.org/facts/what-is-
crispr-cas9. See also, Stein, supra note 14.
31 See Ledford, supra note 10.
32 See Stein, supra note 14
33 Heidi Ledford, Riding the CRISPR Wave, 531 NATURE 157, 159 (2016), http://www.nature.com/news/crispr-
34 See Stein, supra note 14. See also Lanphier et al., supra note 22.
35 See Stein, supra note 14.