Three-parent embryos signal a new future


Lord of Penmai
Jul 5, 2011
Three-parent embryos signal a new future

In a breakthrough, scientists have for the first time created embryos using human eggs that contain DNA from three parents, paving way to prevent 'designer' babies from inheriting rare genetic diseases.

Researchers from the Oregon Health and Science University in the US fertilized eggs containing DNA from two women to grow them into healthy embryos in a lab experiment . The technique, designed for women with mutations in tiny structures known as mitochondria, can result in a range of devastating conditions including muscular dystrophy, The Telegraph reported.

It involves taking chromosomes from the mother's egg, which carry 99.8% of her DNA, and placing them in a donor egg which has healthy mitochondria but has had its own chromosomes removed.

The eggs were fertilized by sperm and almost half developed into healthy embryos.

The resulting children inherited 99.8% of their DNA from their parents and a tiny fraction from the donor.

The DNA from the second woman amounts to less than 1% of the embryo's genes, and it isn't the sort that makes a child look like Mom or Dad.

Researchers claimed that half of the embryos developed abnormally, but identified improvements in their technique which could improve its success rate.

The technique has already stirred a debate over its risks and ethics in the UK, where scientists did similar work a few years ago.

A team from Newcastle University successfully demonstrated a technique where the mother's DNA is transferred after the egg is fertilized and not before.

The Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority is now consulting on a change in the law which would allow the creation of IVF babies using either technique.

The Oregon researchers reported that tests of their technique on rhesus monkeys had shown it could create healthy offspring, but added that there were fewer issues with the quality of embryos in humans.

"In the current study, about half the manipulated eggs failed to fertilize properly , and consequently these gave abnormal embryos," professor Robin Lovell-Badge , of the MRC National Institute for Medical Research, said. The current study findings are published in the journal Nature.
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