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The Government announced today that it is drafting new regulations for an IVF technique which would prevent mitochondrial disease from being passed down from mother to child.

The technique uses mitochondria from a donor and nuclear DNA from both parents.

Approximately one in every 6,500 babies is born with a mitochondrial disorder, which can lead to muscle weakness, blindness, heart failure and even death.

Dr Mark Downs, chief executive of the Society of Biology, says: "We welcome this positive news from the Government. This research has great potential to improve lives and is giving hope to women who want to ensure they don't pass potentially devastating diseases to future generations.

"New advances in science often push the boundaries of current ethical thinking. It is important that every case is considered on its merits and that we do not simply avoid scientific progress on the basis of hypothetical uses of technology."

Draft regulations are expected to be ready this autumn. The regulations are then due to be debated in parliament in 2014, and if they are approved by MPs, Britain would be the first country to permit the technology.