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Peter Rothschild
Compassionate Gynecologic Care
Compassionate Gynecologic Care

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NEW YORK (AP) -- Scientists say the first baby has been born from a controversial new technique that combines DNA from three people - the mother, the father and an egg donor.

The goal was to prevent the child from inheriting a fatal genetic disease from his mother, who had previously lost two children to the illness.

The birth of the boy is revealed in a research summary published by the journal Fertility & Sterility. Scientists are scheduled to present details at a meeting next month in Salt Lake City.

The magazine New Scientist, which first reported the birth, said the baby was born five months ago to Jordanian parents, and that they were treated in Mexico by a team led by Dr. John Zhang of the New Hope Fertility Center in New York. It's not clear where the child was born.

The technique is not approved in the United States, but Zhang told the magazine, "To save lives is the ethical thing to do."

A spokesman for the fertility center said Zhang was not available for further comment on Tuesday. Others involved in the research referred questions to Zhang.

The mother carries DNA that could have given her child Leigh syndrome, a severe neurological disorder that usually kills within a few years of birth. Her two previous children died of the disease at 8 months and 6 years, the research summary said.

The technique involved removing some of the mother's DNA from an egg, and leaving the disease-causing DNA behind. The healthy DNA was slipped into a donor's egg, which was then fertilized. As a result, the baby inherited DNA from both parents and the egg donor.

The technique is sometimes said to produce "three-parent babies," but the DNA contribution from the egg donor is very small.

People carry DNA in two places, the nucleus of the cell and in features called mitochondria, which lie outside the nucleus. The technique is designed to transfer only DNA of the nucleus to the donor egg, separating it from the mother's disease-causing mitochondrial DNA.

The research summary identified the mother as a 36-year-old woman and said her pregnancy was uneventful. One of the five eggs the researchers treated was suitable for use.

Critics question the technique's safety, saying children would have to be tracked for decades to make sure they remain healthy. And they say it passes a fundamental scientific boundary by altering the DNA inherited by future generations. Mitochondrial DNA is passed from women to their offspring.

Still, last year, Britain became the first country in the world to allow creation of human embryos with the technique. In the U.S., a panel of government advisers said earlier this year that it's ethical to test the approach in people if initial experiments follow certain strict safety steps.

That report was requested by the Food and Drug Administration, which is currently prevented by Congress from considering applications to approve testing the technique in people.

Shroukhrat Mitalipov, who has worked with the approach at the Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, said that given the panel's conclusion, "We believe it's time to move forward with FDA-approved clinical trials in the United States."

Henry Greely, who directs the Center for Law and the Biosciences at Stanford University, said Tuesday he sees nothing wrong with using the technique if it is safe and is aimed at diseases clearly caused by faulty mitochondrial DNA.

But he called the research leading to the newly reported birth "unethical, unwise, immoral." He said the approach "hasn't been sufficiently proven safe enough to try to use to make a baby."

Dieter Egli of the New York Stem Cell Foundation, who has done work in the area, was cautious about the implications of the new report.

"I wouldn't go out there at this point and tout the accomplishment because we don't have enough information," he said Tuesday. "We do not know exactly what was done."

"We have to wait" for a fuller report, he said.

The child is not the first to inherit DNA from three people. In the 1990s, some children were born after researchers used a different technique. But federal regulators intervened, and the field's interest now has passed to the new approach.
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I Do Not Have an "EMPTY NEST", My Children Are "IN FLIGHT"

Kenneth Ginsburg M.D., M.S.Ed

We are not empty!

“Are you ready for an empty nest?” I never liked that question, and every time it was asked it only increased my anxiety about the presumed life-altering change to come. But I grew to despise that phrase after my girls left home and close friends and near strangers checked in by asking “How are you doing with your empty nest?” “Empty” is such a charged term. It suggests we are “done,” “useless,” or “barren.” I miss my girls with a vengeance, but our home isn’t "empty," my wife and I are still here! We have a full life together yet to live. We are excited about the ways we can spend our time together and have newfound time for friendships and to contribute to our community.

Most importantly, our girls are not gone forever. They are welcome at any time to return to us for nurturance and guidance . . . or just to build new memories. Our house will always remain as a safe landing in a sometimes unpredictable world. Our girls are “in flight” and we are proud that we raised children who can navigate the world independently AND who choose to cherish interdependence.

(I’ll tell you a reassuring secret . . . my girls are independent, functioning well, and we are closer than ever. If only more people had prepared me for that likelihood rather than using the foreboding language that made me mourn my girls leaving.)

Independence is a step towards our goal of interdependence

Our overemphasis on independence may undermine what has allowed us to thrive throughout the millennia. We thrive best, and indeed survive, when we remain connected. Although we raise our children to be able to fly on their own, we must also prepare them to understand connection is the most important force in their lives. We do this neither by blanketing them with overprotection nor by demanding their full attention. We do this by taking care not to install the control buttons from which they must flee. We do this by noticing their growing wisdom and development . . . and honoring their increasing independence. We do this by recognizing them as the experts in their own lives, and by sharing our own experience when needed. We do this by backing away from believing every moment with our children must be productive and by returning to what has always worked – being together. Just being. Yes, they will fly away and the launching may even have its painful moments. But ultimately we want to raise children who choose interdependence, knowing that nothing is more meaningful or makes us more successful than being surrounded by those we love.

Bottom Line: Independence is a critical stepping stone towards healthy interdependence. Children who feel controlled during adolescence are more likely to fly away and leave an empty nest. Children whose growing independence is nurtured are more likely to take flight while looking forward to returning home for frequent landings.

As long as we continue to use the phrase “empty nest,” we will mourn as our children prepare to take flight. After they leave, we will feel empty. Perhaps worse, our children will leave us with anxiety and guilt because they worry we will feel “barren.” We can begin to make a shift in our expectations and attitudes, and therefore our realities, by shifting the tone of our language.

Out with the old –

“I don’t know if I am ready for an empty nest.”
“How are you doing with your empty nest?”

In with a more positive tone –

“I am preparing for my children to take flight . . . and will always look forward to their return landings.”
“My daughter is in flight, finding herself. It’s wonderful.”
“Tell me about what you and your wife are doing with your extra time now that your son is “in flight?’

We initiate this mindset within our families, but it will be easier, more meaningful, even more protective to us, if we have a new common language that supports this healthier approach to launching our children into adulthood. If you agree, consider sharing this new phrase "in flight" with your friends. Let's decide that "empty nest" will become one of those phrases we used to say before we knew better.

Remember: We should be like lighthouses for our children; beacons of light on a stable shoreline from which they can safely navigate the world. We must make certain that they don’t crash against the rocks; but trust they have the capacity to learn to ride the waves on their own – and prepare them to do so.

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