The world’s first baby has been born using a new “three person” fertility technique, New Scientist reveals. The five-month-old boy has the usual DNA from his mum and dad, plus a tiny bit of genetic code from a donor. US doctors took the unprecedented step to ensure the baby boy would be free of a genetic condition that his Jordanian mother carries in her genes. Experts say the move heralds a new era in medicine and could help other families with rare genetic conditions.But they warn that rigorous checks of this new and controversial technology, called mitochondrial donation, are needed.It’s not the first time scientists have created babies that have DNA from three people – that breakthrough began in the late 1990s – but it is an entirely new and significant method.
The innovative method was presented at a sympisium organized by the Assisting Nature Collage of Reproduction Foundation together with Assisting Nature IVF Unit and under the auspices of Obstetrics and Gynecology Society of Thessaloniki.
Mitochondria are tiny structures inside nearly every cell of the body that convert food into usable energy. Some women carry genetic defects in mitochondria and they can pass these on to their children. In the case of the Jordanian family, it was a disorder called Leigh Syndrome that would have proved fatal to any baby conceived. The family had already experienced the heartache of four miscarriages as well as the death of two children – one at eight months and the other at six years of age.
A severe neurological disorder, affecting at least one in 40,000 new-born babies. Usually becomes apparent during the first year of a child’s life. First signs include vomiting, diarrhoea and difficulty with swallowing. Causes the progressive loss of movement, and deterioration of mental functions. Symptoms are linked to the development of patches of damaged tissue which develop in the brain. Children with the condition usually die within two to three years, usually because of respiratory failure. Mutations in 75 different genes have been linked to the condition. Most of those mutations occur in DNA from the nucleus, but in about one in five cases the culprit is found in mitochondrial DNA.
Scientists have devised a number of fertility methods to help such families. The US team, who travelled to Mexico to carry out the procedure because there are no laws there that prohibit it, used a method that takes all the vital DNA from the mother’s egg plus healthy mitochondria from a donor egg to create a healthy new egg that can be fertilised with the father’s sperm. The result is a baby with 0.1% of their DNA from the donor (mitochondrial DNA) and all the genetic code for things like hair and eye colour from the mother and father. Dr John Zhang, medical director at the New Hope Fertility Centre in New York City, and his colleagues used the method to make five embryos – only one of them developed normally.
The UK has already passed laws to allow the creation of babies from three people. But the science does raise ethical questions, including how any child from the technique might feel about having DNA from three people. Fertility experts say it is important to push ahead, but cautiously. Some have questioned whether we are only now hearing the success story while failed attempts could have gone unreported.
Dr M. Choudhary, leader of the team at NewcastleUniversity that has been at the forefront of three-person IVF work in the UK, said: “The translation of mitochondrial donation to a clinical procedure is not a race but a goal to be achieved with caution to ensure both safety and reproducibility.”
During the Symposium specific topical issues of Human Reproduction were presented by famous Greek and foreign guest scientists.
* In the end you can see the detailed presentations schedule with images and topic of presentation of each guest.