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Sunderland mum who lost seven children backs medical development

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A MUM who inspired pioneering medical research that could lead to “three-parent babies” has welcomed plans to eradicate the condition that claimed the lives of her seven children.

Sharon Bernardi, of Springwell, Sunderland, lost six children to mitochondrial disease within a few hours of them being born. Their son Edward died aged 21, in 2011.

Sharon’s doctor, Professor Doug Turnbull, has been leading a team of researchers at Newcastle University in a bid to prevent the transmission of maternally-inherited mitochondrial disorders.

After a six-month consultation, the Human Fertility and Embryology Authority (HFEA) announced broad support for the mitochondria replacement being made available to at risk families, similar to Sharon’s.

The technique involves replacing the defective mitochondria in a human egg with healthy mitochondria from a “third parent”.

Opponents of the method claim it throws up serious ethical questions.

However, this week a report, which will still need the approvement of Parliament, has made it more likely that babies could soon be born in this way.

Sharon, 48, who has mobility problems caused by inherited mitochondrial disease, said: It makes me angry when people say this is creating designer babies.

“To lose one baby is devastating enough, but to keep on losing them can destroy someone. Professor Turnbull got to know me over a period of time and he saw what happened to our family.

“I can’t begin to imagine the difference this research would have made to my life and if it can help others, it can only be a good thing.”

Sharon and her husband, Neil, 44, were told that Edward was unlikely to live to the age of five. He surpassed all expectations.

Sharon, whose mother is believed to have carried the same condition, added: “Edward was my life. Even now, his story touches people.

“The research that is being carried out could be his legacy.”

Sally Cheshire, from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), said: “The science is complex, but the aim is simple; to enable mothers to not pass onto their children a range of serious, and sometimes fatal, inherited conditions.”

Professor Turnbull added: “It is even more important that Parliament is able to decide whether these techniques should be allowed in the UK.”

 

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