Embryology

House of Lords written question – answered on 6th April 2010.

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Photo of Lord Alton of Liverpool Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the remarks by the then Minister of State at the Department of Health, Dawn Primarolo, on 22 October 2008 (Official Report, Commons, col. 387), which scientific authorities indicated that the nucleus in a cell should be considered to be cytoplasm; how restricting regulating powers to prevent the transmission of serious mitochondrial diseases via the cytoplasm would not necessarily exclude transmission via the cell's nucleus; and whether cloning involves the transfer of a nucleus rather than the cytoplasm.

To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the remarks by the then Minister of State at the Department of Health, Dawn Primarolo, in the Public Bill Committee on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill on 3 June 2008 (col 28), whether it remains their intention to ban any alteration to nuclear DNA being permitted under regulations; whether the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008 provides a regulation-making power for embryos to be used in treatment if they have been processed in a manner allowing the avoidance of serious mitochondrial diseases; and how the definition of such treatments precludes the transfer of an adult somatic cell nucleus into an enucleated egg.

Photo of Baroness Thornton Baroness Thornton Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of Health, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health

The remarks made by the then Minister for State on 22 October 2008 (Hansard, Commons, col. 387) were a response to an amendment tabled to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill. The proposed amendment was to a provision intended to prevent the transmission of serious mitochondrial diseases. The point being made by the Minister was that the proposed amendment could introduce uncertainty around definitions of cell structures, and could therefore potentially render the provision ineffective. The Minister asked that the amendment be withdrawn, which it was.

The Government, and Parliament, have made it clear that they are not prepared to countenance human reproductive cloning. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 (as amended) does so by prohibiting the placing in a woman of an embryo, egg or sperm that has had its nuclear or mitochondrial DNA altered.

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 (as amended) contains a regulation making power to allow the use of embryos in treatment which have had applied to them a prescribed process designed for the very specific purpose of preventing the transfer of serious mitochondrial disease. It is not clear precisely what that process might be. Before any regulations concerning this were made there would be a full public consultation and debates in both Houses of Parliament.

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