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BBC 6 minute English-The three-parent baby

BBC 6 minute English-The three-parent baby

BBC 6 minute English-The three-parent baby


Transcript of the podcast

NB: This is not a word-for-word transcript

Neil: Hello. Welcome to 6 Minute English. I’m Neil and with me in the studio today is Harry

Harry: Hello

Neil: We all have two biological parents but in the future if someone from the UK tells you they have three parents, it might be true

Harry: That’s right. This is because the UK has become the first country to approve laws allowing the creation of babies with DNA from three people! DNA is the chemical structure present in the centre of a cell which defines somebody’s characteristics. This is to fight a particular disease

Neil: Yes. Sometimes parts of the DNA called genes are faulty; it means they don’t work properly and this might cause problems later on. A new technique will allow some of these genes to be replaced by healthy ones from a third person

Harry: This practice is controversial – people argue about it. They fear we’re going to mess with nature and end up with a Frankenstein’s monster

Neil: Wow, that would be frightening, let’s hope it doesn’t happen! Well, in this programme we’re talking about the three-parent baby and you’re going to learn some vocabulary related to reproduction

Harry: Genetics – the science of how living creatures pass their characteristics to their offspring – is fascinating, Neil

Neil: It is fascinating, and you know what I find most surprising, Harry? It’s how much DNA we have in common with other living creatures

Harry: I’ve heard that a very high percentage of our DNA is similar to the DNA of monkeys

Neil: The comparison with monkeys is easy. Over 95% of our DNA is identical to theirs. But what you might not know is… how much of our DNA is similar to the DNA in a banana

Harry: A banana

Neil: Yes. And that’s my quiz question today. What percentage of our DNA is similar to that of a banana? Is it

a) About 1%

b) About 20% or

c) About 50%

Harry: I think we have very little in common with bananas so I’m gonna go for 1%

Neil: Well, I’ll give you the correct answer at the end of the programme. Now let’s talk about the three-parent baby. A pioneering technique, in other words, a technique never used before, has been developed by scientists in Newcastle University here in the UK. The technique helps people with faulty mitochondria, which are structures that work like energy factories in our cells. The mitochondria are like batteries

Harry: And what kind of problems do people who inherit faulty mitochondria have

Neil: They have serious health problems such as brain damage and heart failure

Harry: That’s terrible! Maybe it would be good to have this technique approved

Neil: Well, not everybody agrees with it. Fiona Bruce, who is a Member of Parliament here in Britain, expressed concern when the proposal was discussed in Parliament. Listen out for the expression she uses right at the beginning of her speech. It means that when you start something, you can’t take it back

Fiona Bruce MP

Once the genie is out of the bottle, once these procedures that we are being asked to authorise today go ahead, there will be no going back for society

Harry: She says that the genie is out of the bottle. It’s an expression to do with fairy tales – in particular, the story of Aladdin, when he rubs a lamp and a genie appears. When the genie is released, anything is possible – even bad things. And there’s nothing anyone can do to stop it

Neil: So in the case of DNA engineering, people are afraid that similar techniques might be used to create designer babies – babies whose characteristics like height, sex, hair and eye colour are created to order. Or we might be looking at babies with several parents – and who knows where it might end

Harry: But the approval of this proposal has also made many people happy

Neil: Yes, people like Victoria, a mother who has a sick child because of faulty mitochondria. She uses an expression which means ‘amazing or astonishing’. Which expression is it

Victoria Holliday, mother who will benefit from the new technique

It’s just mind-boggling what this could mean for our family and for other families who are affected. It’s just the best news

Harry: She uses the expression ‘mind-boggling’, in other words something astonishing, overwhelming. That’s great news for this lady. I’m happy for her

Neil: Yes, it is. According to statistics faulty mitochondria affects one in every 6,500 babies – a considerable number of people. Well, this is an interesting subject but we’re running out of time and

Harry: … and you’re going to tell me what percentage of DNA we have in common with a banana, aren’t you

Neil: I am. And the options I gave you were about 1%, 20% or 50%. And you said

Harry: I said I thought it was just 1%

Neil: Well, can you believe that it’s 50%? We are half… half and half like bananas

Harry: That’s incredible! They’re not even mammals, we are so different to them … It’s mindboggling

Neil: Let’s listen to today’s words once again, Harry

Harry: Yes. They were

DNA genes faulty genetics pioneering mitochondria (the singular is irregular: mitochondrion) the genie is out of the bottle designer babies mind-boggling

Neil: Well, that’s it for today. Do go to www.bbclearningenglish.com to find more 6 Minute English programmes. Until next time. Goodbye

Harry: Bye

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