Brit scientists brew up three-parent embryo
Two mums and one dad fight hereditary diseases
British scientists have successfully created "three parent" embryos using a technique they hope will offer "effective treatments for a range of serious hereditary diseases within five years".
The research could benefit mothers who suffer from mitochondrial DNA defects which might be inherited by their offspring and provoke any one of 40 different diseases, including those causing "fatal liver, heart and brain disorders, deafness, muscular problems and forms of epilepsy", as Reuters explains.
The Newcastle University team manipulated three DNA sources - the parents' nuclear DNA taken from a fertilised egg created by IVF, and an egg from a third party from which the nucleus had been removed. They transplanted the nuclear DNA into the nucleus-free host egg, thereby creating a foetus with its parents' genes inherited from the nuclear DNA but with the mitochondrial DNA of the second "mum".
Team member Patrick Chinnery summarised to Reuters: "The idea is simply to swap the bad diseased mitochondria - give a transplant, if you like - for good healthy ones from a donor. We're trying to prevent kids being born with fatal diseases."
The team experimented on "abnormal embryos left over from IVF therapy" to create the two-mum-one-dad embryos, which were "destroyed after six days".
Reuters concludes: "Stiff opposition to the technique is likely from critics of embryo research who fear the creation of designer babies." ®
Mitochondrial DNA is inherited exclusively from the mother. Sperm do carry mitochondrial DNA, but this is "destroyed" within the embryo after fertilisation.
That's pretty cool...
the mad scientist in me wants to know if it's possible to do this with any other body cell, e.g. would any other cell with it's nucleus removed still be able to act as an egg if you put an egg nucleus into it, then fertilised it?
or conversely one egg with two fathers' sperm nuclei (filtered to get at least one X... though the mad scientist again wants to see if a YY embryo is viable and what happens if so).
The guy-whos-worked-in-a-hospital in me who's therefore seen all kind of developmental tragedy is ambivalent on it. It could be an awesome idea for fixing all manner of genetic ailments. But if it's not done well and things go wrong, there could be even more horrors in store.
Ian Vs Gareth
Gareth I think the point Ian was trying to make is that research in this area is not as beneficial to the advancement of the human race as a whole as would be the development of solutions to problems such as the impending energy crisis, global warming, long distance space travel etc.
Viewed in a very cold light, we have a huge and very robust human breeding stock and don’t have a pressing need to maximize fertility rates, quite the reverse on the global scale in fact.
You ask people to respect choices but you must understand that your insistence on raising your personal genetic stock rather than an adoptee is a choice that benefits nobody but yourself and your partner, so it’s actually quite selfish. You could advance the argument that there exists a right to bear children but given the tendency towards overpopulation and scarcity of resources I would disagree.
>>genetic diseases are 'recessive' and are not passed on to every child
That's the point of the article though, it's nothing to do with the father's DNA and chance.
Mitochondrial DNA always comes from the mother and does not have a chance to be paired with the father's DNA.
This yields two concequences:
1. If a mother has a disease linked to mitochondrial DNA then the child is 100% sure of having it, since the egg's mitochondia IS the mothers
2. m-DNA doesn't mutate via sex, the disease will not 'bred' out of the population - it ranomly mutates at a much slower rate
The reason this is significant is that m-DNA doesn't alter the charaterastics of the person (in terms of looks, build, eye colur). And so man has crafted a way of ensuring the survival of the mother's defining genes, inspite of a faulty (hard to repair through natural selection) mechanism.
>>so you could remove or add 'gay' DNA
No - there's no such thing as gay mitochondria