Researchers from the United Kingdom (UK) claim to have found a way to prevent genetically inherited mitochondrial diseases using a technique referred to as 'three-parent IVF'. The process involves transplanting the nucleus of an embryo made from a mother and father into a healthy egg supplied via egg donation from a third person.
Mitochondrial diseases are genetic conditions passed to children through genetic mutations that the mother may carry. The potential inherited conditions include but are not limited to fatal heart problems, brain disorders, blindness, liver failure, and muscular weakness.
Following the new procedure, doctors gather eggs from the affected mother using the normal in vitro fertilization (IVF) method but then remove the unhealthy egg's nucleus and place it into a healthy egg from an unaffected egg donor . The new egg, carrying all of the mother's chromosomes with the donor's mitochondria, is then fertilized and continues normal progression.
Since the donor is not a carrier of any mitochondrial diseases, the possibility of mitochondrial mutations in the child would be eliminated. However, a child born as a result from this technique would contain the DNA of all three people, but less than 0.001 percent of genes would be from the donor - the majority of the inherited genetics would still come from the mother and father.
Due to the controversial nature of ‘three-parent IVF’, the UK's Human Fertility and Embryology Authority (HFEA) launched a public consultation to gauge pubic opinion on the procedure. Depending on the results, the presently banned technique may be legalized within five years. The United Kingdom may then become the first country to perform this procedure to eliminate genetically inherited mitochondrial diseases.