Babies with the genes of three parents could be born within three years, British scientists have announced.
Neurologists at Newcastle University in northeastern England have been given a £4.4 million ($6.8 million) grant for the controversial IVF technique, which aims to replace small parts of a mother's egg that may pass genetic defects onto children.
Independent charity the Wellcome Trust announced the funding for the university's mitochondria center on Thursday, the same day the UK's Department of Health said that it would hold a public consultation to decide whether the technique should be legalized.
The procedure involves transferring the DNA from a mother's egg into another woman's donor egg in order to replace the mother's faulty mitochondria, which are described as the 'batteries' that power the cells in our bodies.
The egg is then implanted in the mother to prevent her child inheriting her faulty genes, which can cause incurable and potentially fatal conditions such as liver, kidney, brain, muscle and heart disease.
"Every year, we see hundreds of patients whose lives are seriously affected by mitochondrial diseases," Professor Doug Turnbull, lead researcher, said Thursday. "We want to make a major difference to the lives of these patients."
He added, "This new funding will enable us to take forward essential experiments, which we hope will demonstrate to the HFEA [Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority] and to the public that these techniques, which are based on existing IVF techniques, are safe and effective."
Around 0.2 percent of the baby's DNA would come from the egg donor, and the third parent's genetic material would not contain any of the donor's characteristics, according to the researchers.
Sir Mark Walport, head of the Wellcome Trust, said, "We welcome the opportunity to discuss with the public why we believe this technique is essential if we are to give families affected by these diseases the chance to have healthy children, something most of us take for granted."