Many scientists from all over the world believe mitochondrial donation IVF, also
referred to as “three-parents” in vitro fertilization (IVF), has the potential to prevent the disease’s transmission.
Every year over 4,000 children in the US are born with a mitochondrial disease like muscular dystrophy, Leigh’s disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig’s Disease. In the UK this affects around 3,500 people; at least 1 in 200 children are affected by mitochondrial DNA disease, and while many will be asymptomatic or have mild, late-onset or undiagnosed problems, around 1 in 6500 children are diagnosed to more serious mitochondrial disorders. It now appears that a novel IVF technique can possibly decrease the number of people with such a disease in the future.
Mitochondrial diseases are caused by harmful mutations in mitochondria – energy-generating organelles in the cells.
These mutations stop the mitochondria from converting the energy of food and oxygen into ATP that powers the cells’ functions. This mitochondria dysfunction can impact the heart, brain, muscles, lungs and other parts of the body. Inherited mutations in mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) are an important cause of genetic diseases for which there is currently no cure. For that reason the development of a preventing strategy is vital.
Three parents – Mitochondrial donation is a new technique based on IVF that involves replacing the dysfunctional mitochondria in a mother’s egg with healthy mitochondria from the egg of a female donor.
However this method has not been tested in humans yet and for this to become possible new regulations are needed to allow the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) to permit the application of these techniques. Earlier this year, Parliament agreed to new regulations by voting in favor of a change in the legislation governing UK genetic research. That makes the UK the first country where mitochondrial donation IVF can now be tested in the clinic. Muscular Dystrophy UK funded the early development of this technique, and campaigned for many years for this change in the law.
Despite the overwhelming support for the three parents method as the only way to prevent such a disease, there are still some people opposing to the legalization of mitochondrial donation arguing that this could eventually lead to deliberate modification of the babies’ physical traits in the future, paving the way for ‘’designer babies’’.
So what about the ethical aspects of a method that mixes DNA from 3 different people to create a baby?
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