Birth of Child from 3 Parents in U.K. Sets Grounds for New Treatment

Category Science

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The birth of a baby to a U.K. couple using DNAs of three people through mitochondrial donation treatment is a first of its kind in the country. The procedure is used to prevent any mitochondrial diseases as it uses mitochondria from a healthy donor egg. It may set the grounds for great advancements by leading to a possible elimination of mitochondrial diseases in the future.

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For the first time in the U.K., a baby has been born using the DNAs of three people - the parents and a woman. The baby born to the U.K. couple is a first of its kind in the country, but not the world. Approximately five such babies have been born since 2016.

Mutations in mitochondrial DNA are maternally inherited and can cause fatal or debilitating disorders without effective treatments. A new technique allows parents with rare genetic mutations to have healthy babies.

It is estimated that about one in 200 children are born with a mitochondrial disorder.

--- A novel IVF technique --- .

The technique that can prevent any mitochondrial diseases in the child uses in vitro fertilization (IVF), which uses mitochondria from a healthy donor egg, as reported by BBC. The doctors use the egg and the sperm of the parents but use the mitochondria from the donor’s eggs. The technique is also called mitochondrial donation treatment (MDT). The third person, apart from the parents, contributes a total of 0.1 percent to the baby's DNA.

MIT binds disease-causing mutant mitochondria and degrades them, making it possible for the embryos to survive.

Mitochondrial diseases are a group of rare diseases that are genetically transferred from a parent to a child. If contracted, the disease results in a defect in mitochondrial functions, meaning that the cells cannot create enough energy for a body to function properly. The disease can often turn fatal for a newborn.

BBC report further talks about the two techniques available for performing mitochondrial donation. One takes place after the father's sperm have fertilized the mother's egg, and the other takes place before fertilization. Either way, the changes made to the DNA structure via the procedure will be passed down through generations.

The US FDA has approved the MRT technique but it is not allowed in many European countries due to ethical concerns.

The first baby born using this technique was in the U.S. to a Jordanian family in 2016. The 36-year-old woman who gave birth to the baby had Leigh syndrome, a rare inherited neurometabolic disorder that attacks the central nervous system. She had a history of four pregnancy losses and two children who died at eight months and six years from Leigh syndrome.

The Guardian spoke to Dagan Wells, a professor of reproductive genetics at the University of Oxford, who said the procedure is not entirely risk-free. Research led by Wells found that in a few cases, the tiny amount of abnormal mitochondria that are inevitably carried over from the biological mother’s egg to the donor egg can multiply when the baby is in the womb. "The reason why reversal is seen in the cells of some children born following MRT procedures, but not in others, is not fully understood," said Wells.

About 150 female volunteers from the UK participated in the study.

The birth of the baby in the U.K. set the grounds for approval of the mitochondrial donation treatment in the country, which may lead to miraculous treatments for babies with lethal mitochondrial diseases. The announcement brings hope for couples who have faced a series of losses due to the genetically-inherited defect. While the procedure is still in its infancy, any advancements in the field of mitochondrial donation could pave the way towards eliminating mitochondrial diseases, diminishing the loss and broken hearts of many families in the future.

Approximately 27,000 eggs were tested to develop the mitochondrial donation technique.

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