Muscular Dystrophy Campaign-funded research highlighted in national media and supported in Parliament

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MPs from across the party political spectrum spoke out in favour of regulations being brought before Parliament for the mitochondrial IVF technique funded by the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign and developed by Newcastle University during a debate in the House of Commons last night.

Coinciding with the debate, the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign-funded research has been highlighted in national media coverage, including on the BBC News website, a BBC Radio 4 documentary, BBC Radio 5 Live's Victoria Derbyshire broadcast and the Sunday Times.

Countering arguments by MPs during the parliamentary debate seeking a delay to the regulations on safety, many MPs made contributions to support the introduction of the regulations for the technique, explaining and clarifying the science behind the technique and the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA)'s rigorous safety and efficacy processes.

Steve Brine, MP for Winchester, welcomed the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign's funding support for the technique during the debate:

The work at Newcastle University is being funded by the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign...[this] speaks volumes about the motives behind the work.

MPs who also expressed their support included David Willetts MP, former Universities and Science Minister, and and Dr Sarah Wollaston MP, Chair of the Health Select Committee.  

David Willetts MP contributed:

I think that this is a great piece of British scientific advance. We should congratulate the scientists at Newcastle university who have been in the lead in the research. My view is that provided it meets stringent safety requirements this is something that should go ahead because it will alleviate the suffering of constituents whom we represent...

We are not talking about the nuclear DNA that makes us who we are-the characteristics of our character or appearance. This is about a very distinctive part of DNA that has been called, for us laymen, a battery part of the cell, not the nuclear DNA, so it does not affect identity. It is also important to recognise that these scientific advances create a new problem...

For the first time, a parent-a mother-could know that she could transmit this disease to her child. We have learned something that we did not know before. If we allow people to have this knowledge but do not permit a medical intervention that will tackle the problem, we have created a new source of human suffering that did not exist before this scientific understanding came about. Now that this knowledge is available, failing to permit families to act on it would be an unacceptable addition of a new cruelty to what is already a very distressing condition. Therefore, in terms of our respect for human integrity and dignity, it is right to intervene.

Dr Sarah Wollaston sought to correct some of the language which had been used during the debate:

I rise to urge the Minister not to delay bringing forward the regulations, and I urge the House not to lose sight of the children and their families who are devastated by mitochondrial diseases. Of course it is absolutely right that the House debates the ethics, as so many Members have pointed out, but at times the language used has clouded those arguments. We have heard terms such as "eugenics", "three-parent babies", "designer babies". This is not about wanting to create a child who is more beautiful or more intelligent. This is about wanting to spare families and children from a lifetime of devastating medical problems. We have the potential to do that...

The House is not really qualified to examine the evidence in detail, and that is why we have expert panels, and bodies such as the HFEA, to advise and regulate this, and they do so with a great deal of thoughtfulness and expertise.

The Muscular Dystrophy Campaign is supporting encouraging the Government in its intention to bring forward the regulations for consideration and approval by Parliament before the general election so that progress is made towards taking this UK-developed pioneering technique.

A full transcript of last night's debate is on the Parliament website.

To get involved in the campaign to build up parliamentary support for the regulations and the mitochondrial IVF technique, please get in touch on 020 7803 4839 or by email at  

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