Mitochondria produce energy in cells; swapping
them in an unfertilized egg can reduce the risk of
disease in the offspring.
ISM/SPL

NATURE | NEWS

DNA-swap technology almost ready for fertility clinic
Mitochondrial transfer could reduce the risk of childhood disease.

David Cyranoski
24 October 2012

Researchers say that technology to shuffle genetic material between unfertilized eggs is ready to make healthy babies. The technique could allow parents to minimize the risk of a range of diseases related to defects in the energy-producing cell organelles known as mitochondria.

Mitochondrial defects affect an estimated 1 in 4,000 children, and can cause rare and often fatal diseases such as carnitine deficiency, which prevents the body from using fats for energy.

They are also implicated in a wide range of more common diseases affecting children and adults, such as multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease. Mitochondria have their own DNA and are inherited only from the mother, so replacing defective mitochondria in eggs from mothers who have a high risk of passing on such diseases could spare the children.

Three years ago, a team led by Shoukhrat Mitalipov, a reproductive biologist at Oregon Health and Science University in Beaverton, created1 eggs with donor mitochondria that developed into healthy rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta). Today, the same team reports2 the creation of human embryos in which all of the mitochondria come from a donor. The method needs to be tweaked to increase efficiency and gain regulatory clearance, but it is ready for the clinic, says Mitalipov. “You can expect the first healthy child to be born [using this method] within three years.”

Read more: DNA-swap technology almost ready for fertility clinic : Nature News & Comment.

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