Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Three-Way Parenthood ...Avoiding the transmission of mitochondrial disease takes a trio, but raises a host of logistical issues.


Mitochondrial diseases, which are passed down maternally, affect one in 6,500 children worldwide and result from mutations in mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA). They can cause a variety of incurable human pathologies, including heart problems, liver failure, brain disorders, blindness, hearing loss, myopathy and death.

In order to prevent defective mtDNA from being passed to a child, scientists have developed a new procedure that modifies standard in-vitro fertilization (IVF) technology to create an embryo from the eggs of two females, transferring the nuclear DNA from the egg of the female carrying mitochondrial defects into the enucleated cytoplasm of a donor egg that harbors nonmutated mtDNA, and sperm obtained from one male. The resulting embryo is then implanted into the uterus of the woman with the mitochondrial disorder.

IVF itself raised many legal and ethical questions when it first appeared in the 1970s – terms such as “desiglner babies” and “playing God” were thrown around quite liberally – though it has now become widely accepted. This new procedure, however, raises new ones, such as: who are the legal parents of such a child? Would the child have the right to know the identity of all his/her gene donors? And would this just be taking one step closer down the path towards an era of “consumer eugenics”?

News source: http://bit.ly/GzBnVV