A number of years ago we reported on how a “three-person IVF” procedure could be used to stop serious conditions from being passed from mother to child. The prospect caused serious concern among many scientists and ethicists. But now the BBC is reporting that a bioethics council is green-lighting the treatment.
To review, scientists are hoping to see it used as a therapy to eliminate rare mitochondrial diseases. Mitochondria function as powerpacks that can be found in virtually every human cell, and just like the nucleus, they also contain DNA. Unfortunately, inherited defects in this mitochondrial DNA affects approximately 1 in 5,000 births, leading to severe or even fatal results.
Researchers speculate that a way to overcome this problem is to take two eggs, one from the mother and one from a donor. The nucleus of the donor egg is removed, leaving the mitochondria intact and replaced by the mother’s nucleus. The resulting embryo has properly functioning mitochondria from the donor — resulting in a potentially healthy baby, albeit one with three parents.