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London, UK - Fertility regulators in the UK have paved the way for the introduction of a radical form of gene therapy in which babies are created using cellular material from three people.

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) advised the government recently that there is no evidence "mitochondrial replacement" - an advanced form of in-vitro fertilisation - is unsafe, and ministers will now decide whether to proceed with the technique.

Critics say the move is the first step on a slippery slope towards the creation of "designer babies" built to order that heralds a new era of "consumer eugenics" - with potentially disastrous implications for humankind.

"There has been a consensus for some time in about 50 or 60 countries that we should not manipulate the human 'germline' - that is, the cells that give rise to a new individual," said Dr David King, director of the group Human Genetics Alert.

"This is the first time that there has been official approval for crossing that line and, once you cross the Rubicon, it becomes difficult not to move...