Is the creation of human embryos with genetic material from two mothers taking it too far?
British scientists have been granted permission by the HFEA to create a human embryo by transfering material created when an egg and sperm fuse into another woman's egg.
The team from Newcastle University's pioneering work aims to prevent mothers from passing certain genetic diseases onto their unborn babies.
Is this decision a medical breakthrough or unethical? Should scientists transfer genetic material? Send us your comments.
This debate is now closed. Please read a selection of your comments below.
The following comments reflect the balance of views received:
There is no one solution for all cases. If the scientists could prevent mothers from passing a genetic diseases onto their unborn babies, it would be a win win situation. What we should be concern about is whether the system will be abused and exploited. Sometimes it is difficult to give a black and white answer to everything.
Christina Spybey, London, UK
It is an unassailable fact that man is richly endowed to do great things and I believe that the zeal of British scientists to prevent mothers from passing-on genetic diseases to their offspring is the best thing to happen to human race in a very long time. All hands must be on deck to improve the lot of homo-sapien.
Oloyede Felix, Ibadan/Nigeria
A large part of genetic engineering on plants has gone into developing hybrids that can no longer naturally reproduce. It would be terrible indeed if the pressures which brought about such 'advances' were applied to humans. Science needs to go on but there needs to be a line drawn in the sand beyond which it must not go. Imagine some sort of latter day Bush or Cheney gaining control of the human race in such a manner and you can understand the importance of this issue.
Dale Lanan, Longmont, Colorado, USA
God gave us the intelligence to develop genetic engineering. He gave us the desire and curiosity to explore it. There is nothing unethical about exploring the unknown.
This is progress and we should support it!
James Rogers, Aylsham, UK
I think genetic engineering should be let to explore. Maybe, it is the intent behind it that should be resolved. It should be for the advancement of science and knowledge, not a money making machine nor a freak show.
We need more information, and public debate. Are other characteristics which may be beneficial being suppressed at a sub-presidential level and are we going to allow any genetic characteristics to be removed from our pool by anyone, albeit acting in our best interests?
Gill Bloxham, llnfyrnach
I think that people have a natural conservatism that is shown in their views on genetic engineering. But the wilful desire of business and some scientists to be progressive will do harm, then sense will prevail and a consensus will be reached on how humanity should go forward with the tools we are giving ourselves. But we will do terrible things before we learn how powerful we have made ourselves.
Alastair, London, UK
The main problem for genetics will be the future. If everyone could choose the genes for thier children most people would choose the same genes such as IQ, diseases, height etc. This would mean people would become more and more alike. You could then end up with people not being able to have kids normally, as their partner is more likely to have the same genes.
I am utterly amazed at how the public continues to tolerate an unelected and unaccountable group of bureaucrats making exceptionally important decisions without any reference to them or even Parliament. It is absolutely appalling. So much for "democracy".
Patrick Leahy, Cambridge, UK
Assisted conception isn't really about survival of the fittest, the advance of science or victory over inherited disease, is it? It's mostly about private medicine, well-off, near middle-aged, infertile middle class couples and their questionable "right" to have a child. The pioneers of this speciality did all their early research with public funding; once successful, they opened a private clinic and made millions.
Phil, Great Wakering, UK
Human evolution can only go so far, as survival of the fittest doesn't happen now because of hospitals and treatments. I reckon the next step in evolution is for us to genetically remove all the defects in our DNA so that we can have disease-free children.
I suffered a severed nerve that has paralyzed my left foot. If genetic engineering helps the regenerating of cells, I'm all for any developments. Now, I don't think we should build a specific person - nature has a way of working itself out. As horrible as this may sound there actually may be a reason for genetic defects as part of the evolution of man. It may sound absurd, but it could be true, at least something that needs to be address. I mean why do we have an appendix - who knows, so many unanswered questions.
Mike Daly, Miami, FL USA
Most of us are happy to see progress in ridding the suffering in existing situations. This process is making me nervous. It sounds very much like the type of engineering that people feel is crossing the line. My worst fear is that it will impact the genuine research being done to alleviate such diseases as Alzheimer's.
As far as it helps people and reduces the risk of preventable and genetic diseases and malformations, it should advance. The old theory of people who say that had God wanted us to fly we would have had wings on our backs is backward and primitive. If research helps in providing parents and children with a normal healthy life, it should be encouraged and promoted. This is a groundbreaking finding.
Lamis Khalil, Prague
I'll bet that every person who says this breakthrough is unethical or unnatural doesn't have a child who is afflicted with a genetic disease. One can say that vaccines and antibiotics are also unnatural since they are man made. If you don't want to fix your defective genes when having a child, then don't. But don't stop others from having healthy children. Remember, once the bad gene is eliminated, it's gone for good for future generations in that genetic line.
Art Black, New York, USA
How far should we go? It is now clear that the HFEA think anything goes. They are unelected and unaccountable. They have no place for public consultation and are totally out of control. To such we trust the future on mankind. Heaven help us.
How can it be unethical to seek to bring a child into the world fit and healthy instead of burdened with a crippling genetic disease?
Richard, Isle of Wight, UK
The only problem with eugenics is that the perfect genetic human beings aren't always the perfect social human beings. Maybe we need to ask the disabled what they think about it.
At the end of the day, this is nothing but tampering with the entire human gene pool, an ironic attempt to eliminate natural selection itself. Whether or not it is moral is irrelevant. It is simply man trying to dominate everything else on the planet and the end result can't possibly be positive.
Diana, London, UK
Unelected, unaccountable, unannounced, and without consultation, the HFEA have again overextended themselves without a mandate. This is one area of British public life in grievous need of overhaul. Parliament should intervene to stop this immediately and reform the HFEA. This is a step too far.
Michael Calwell, Edinburgh
I notice the usual mixing of myth (Bible) and science taking place here. Science is science, it doesn't matter if you belive in it or not, it always works, over and over again. So let's stop muddying the waters with irrelevant comments based on fiction. Let the geneticists eliminate all the inheritable diseases from the gene pool so families can have children safe in the knowledge they are free from these killers....or do the Bible bashers think deliberately bringing disabled, ill, dying children into the world is a moral act?
John R Smith, UK
Every time we do something like this, we blur the edges of what it means to be human. Why do we only ask the "should" questions after the "can" questions? Surely it is better to have this discussion first, so the path ahead can be travelled in consensus and not conflict. The aim might be laudable, but we shouldn't ride rough-shod over humanity to get there.
Rachel Romain, Chelmsford, UK
If you just watch and wait you'll realise that anything goes in today's world.
Ezajur Rahman, Kuwait
Whilst I appreciate that many people object to genetic engineering on the grounds of their religious beliefs, why should those who do not share these beliefs be prevented from benefiting from such scientific breakthroughs?
This barn door has been open for some time. It is inevitable we shall all walk through it together, for better or worse.
Chris, Dunsmuir, CA, USA
How long will it be before children will be "grown" in labs and raised like specimens with a number and harvested for their body parts to the highest bidder? Medical science must have an ethical foundation How can that be possible if genetic engineering is for profit?
Angelica Adams, Cambridge MA USA
Survival of the fittest has produced enough human beings - people with genetic diseases should avoid having children and adopt one of the many unwanted children in the world - it's not about ethics it's just common sense.
V Jay, London
Let's face it. Whatever can be done will be done to save lives. Only people with no medical problems have the time to sit and chatter.
John , UK
A "breakthrough" no; a hard-earned step on the road to a healthier future, one in which we can help assure a higher quality of life for those (like me) who suffer daily, one which sees their individual and collective contributions, yes. Wonderful, go UK!
Rene D, Bel Air, USA
It should go all the way. Eventually this might lead to a more advanced human - Darwinian theory taken to its logical conclusion if you like.
Mark Chisholm, Dereham, Norfolk
Ethics are transitory. What was considered unethical in the past is commonplace today. Think of test tube babies, organ transplants and use of cadavers in medical research. Any technology to advance the human species and eliminates genetic disease should be welcomed.
Andrew, Cardiff, UK
Natural selection is a part of the human race and keeps us strong as a whole. Ethics can be influenced by background. It is in fact the science suggests that this practice can damage our race in ways that are currently invisible to us. Time and money is better spent sorting other global issues that affect us all.
Woody, Melton Mowbray Leicestershire
There are people alive and breeding now who should have died or never been conceived if we had let nature takes its course. We have been bypassing natural selection for hundreds of years by using medicines, surgery and intensive care. It is only right that we continue this trend to its conclusion by embracing genetic engineering. One without the other is suicide of the species.
It would be plainly unethical to not allow genetic engineering to progress as a valid science. Anything we can do now to further the expansion and survivability of future generations should be taken serious. It's time to separate the ethics of religion and the advances of medicine and science.
Chanda Cryer, Dallas, TX
As a person with an inherited neurological condition which makes my life difficult I think it would be unethical not to use and develop new technology in medicine if it's available.
Paul, York, UK
When Benjamin Franklin invented the lightning rod, it was derided as unethical and against God's will. Such talk regarding this is just as silly.
Shawn, Washington, DC, USA
Every piece of research is aimed at preventing disease, but always transfers over into the lifestyle choice market soon enough. Why ask about it now it's already happened? It's not like it will be properly regulated in future, no doubt someone will invoke the Human Rights Act to have a baby this way if they get turned down, wasting more taxpayers' money into the bargain.
Ken, London, UK
I think it should be allowed to enable scientists to remove the genes that cause hereditary problems. But not time ever to give designer babies. A very fine line divides this.
Debbie Loader, Oxford, UK
Are we treating a would-be conscious human being as if he or she were a grain of wheat or a perhaps an animal? Has our lust for life driven us to defy death to the point of an artificial existence? Surely the Newcastle University can find truly beneficial line of research in which to put its funds and leave Frankensteinian boys play to fiction and mythology. This work disgusts me.
Jakob Hartel-Schwarz, Ales, France
Genetic engineering potentially holds the cure for many of the problems. However, I only hope that in search of the best of "quality of life", we are not trying to circumvent the idea of death. I am not sure if the genetic engineering marvel has potentially disastrous consequences for the already bulging planet.
Mouli Narayanan, Portland, Oregon, USA
We are the cause and reason for genetic engineering. Radiation, man made chemicals and pollution causing birth defects and genetic engineering a product of our own science to try and act on the faults of our own science of the past. We have no concept of the consequences of our actions in this area in the long term and seem to have the attitude that we know enough but do we really?
James Killeen, Dalgety Bay, Scotland
It's very difficult to justify the millions spent on this technology when people have the opportunity to adopt healthy children with no parents. The priorities are all wrong.
We now fly through moral stop signs without so much as a thought about the implications. Best start building the ark.
Brian, Kansas City, USA
How could anyone consider the elimination of potentially lethal mitochondrial diseases unethical? Ask the parents of a child with muscular dystrophy if they think this research is taking it too far. It's very easy to sit back unaffected by these diseases and talk ethics.
Rob, Cork, Ireland
Of course it's a breakthrough, but not in the positive way. For creating a child a male and a female are needed and nothing more nor less. Also to bring them up. Read your Bible (starting with Genesis).
Teun van Unen, Putten, The Netherlands
This is a great advancement in medical science. To say that this is unethical is like saying that it is unethical for people with genetic diseases to have children. People should have the right to the choice to fix their maladies, be it a broken leg or broken genes.
Donald, Toronto, Canada
Breakthrough and unethical. What is the point of continuing this sort of work, when NHS funding will no doubt limit treatment to the few? Continue yes, if available to all.
Dee Vause, Leeds, Yorkshire
How far should genetic engineering go? As far as it can, surely. If we can advance to the point where healthy, good looking and intelligent children can be guaranteed to all, on what grounds would anyone object? It isn't natural? Well, turn that computer off for a start and get out to the woods for some hunting and gathering is that is your complaint.
Max, Abu Dhabi, UAE
It is a welcome development. This is a big breakthrough in the medical field. As the saying goes; prevention is better than cure. It doesn't make sense bringing a child into this world that will be suffering from one form of disease or another. This method will help to save time and money that would have been spent caring for a child plagued with genetic disease. Keep up the good work.
Omorodion Osula, Boston, USA
I'm no expert in this field, and sometimes it's hard to argue against these genetic developments if it means people are free from disease. But creating people with two genetic mothers and cloning of human cells is playing with a grenade and one day it could blow up in all our faces. Just as atom bombs in the wrong hands are dangerous, I think genetics is equally dangerous. I am sure all those Nazi eugenic doctors would have been fascinated by the advancement in cloning if they were still alive to see it.
Nick, Newcastle, UK
If a farmer were to breed from defective animals eventually most of the flock would be defective. Thanks to IVF human beings are headed down the same route. Genetic order is devolving into genetic chaos.
Evelin Adam, Nederlands