The first baby conceived after mitochondrial donation techniques may be born as early as next year after peers in the House of Lords voted against a move to block a planned legislation change by 280 votes to 48, a majority of 232.
Research has shown that mitochondrial donation could potentially help almost 2,500 women of reproductive age in the UK who are at risk of transmitting harmful DNA mutations in the mitochondria.
But opponents, including church leaders and pro-life groups, have warned that the change has been brought about too hastily and marked the start of a “slippery slope” towards designer babies and eugenics.
Last night the Lords rejected an attempt to delay the legislation by Tory former cabinet minister John Gummer, before voting overwhelmingly in favour of the change to the law after several hours of debate.
The move to amend the 2008 Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act, which forbids IVF treatments that affect inherited “germline” DNA in eggs and sperm, was carried by some 382 votes to 128 in the Commons earlier this month.
Prime Minister David Cameron, Labour leader Ed Miliband, and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg all exercised their free vote to support the decision.
A spokeswoman for the department of health said: ``Parliament’s decision will bring hope to hundreds of families affected by mitochondrial disease.
“We are proud to be the first country to allow these revolutionary techniques. For the first time ever, women who carry severe mitochondrial disease will have the opportunity to have healthy babies without the fear of passing on devastating genetic disorders.’’