LONDON   -  The British government said on Friday it would pursue a radical fertility technique that uses DNA from three parents to create an embryo, setting the stage for it to become the first country to offer the treatment.

The IVF-based technique is designed to avoid serious mitochondrial diseases inherited on the maternal side, such as muscular dystrophy and cardiac problems.

Mitochondria are the structures within cells that convert energy from food into a form that the body can use.

The technique would replace some of the unhealthy DNA with healthy DNA from the so-called “third parent”.

“It’s only right that we look to introduce this life-saving treatment as soon as we can,” said Sally Davies, the chief medical officer for England.  Meanwhile, a sermon condemning the sexual grooming of young girls was delivered Friday at 500 mosques across Britain after a series of trials in which men predominantly of South Asian origin were convicted.

The speech highlighted how the Koran condemns all forms of sexual indecency and urged Muslims to protect children and vulnerable people in their communities.

The sermon was organised by the not-for-profit group Together Against Grooming (TAG) and was read ou TAG spokesman Ansar Ali said: “We have been horrified by the details that have emerged from recent court cases and as Muslims we feel a natural responsibility to condemn and tackle this crime.” He said the issue was “much more complicated” than simply blaming Muslim men.

“Sexual grooming and child abuse afflicts all sections of society and is perpetrated by people of all ethnic groups.”

The sermon urges anyone who sees an “evil action” to act or speak out. It was written by Alyas Karmani, an imam and youth worker in Keighley, West Yorkshire, a town with a large Muslim population.

Karmani told the BBC that there was a “profound disrespect culture” in the treatment of women. Parliament is due to debate the regulations next year, leading the way for Britain to offer the treatment to at-risk women. One in 200 children is born each year with a form of disease in their mitochondrial DNA.  Scientists are developing a technique to remove some of the mitochondrial DNA of the mother and replace it with DNA from the “third parent” to create a healthy embryo.

Transmitted through the maternal line, mitochondria only carry a few dozen genes, or about 0.1 percent of the DNA code, and are separate from the nucleus of the cell which contains the remainder.

However, when mitochondrial genes carry a defect, the impact on health can be huge. Eye disorders, cardiac malfunction, diabetes, gastrointestinal and muscular diseases and even forms of dementia can result.

According to a “conservative” 2010 estimate by Patrick Chinnery, a geneticist at Newcastle University in northeast England, mitochondrial disease occurs in more than one in 10,000 people.

The idea of the therapy is to avert this by swapping the faulty mitochondria in an egg with healthy mitochondria from a donor, and then fertilise the reconstructed egg with sperm from the would-be father, following the now-classic procedures of in-vitro fertilisation (IVF).