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Dec
23

What Will THEY Think of Next?

Three Person Embryo

MITOCHONDRIAL REPLACEMENT THERAPY (MRT)

I recently wrote an article entitled DNA What’s it to you? which can be found on the K&G website www.kongreen.com. My current blog focuses on another aspect of DNA: the manipulation of embryos to avoid inherited mitochondrial DNA. MRT is a controversial therapy which will allow women who have faulty DNA to avoid the risk of passing on genetic diseases to their children.

MRT was made legal in Britain in 2015. The treatment seeks to prevent mothers who have a high risk of transmitting certain diseases to their children, caused by mutations in mitochondria (tiny structures that provide energy inside cells). Children inherit all their mitochondria from their mothers. MRT uses healthy donor mitochondria to replace the faulty ones. The child will have 46 chromosomes from its parents, plus additional DNA from the donor’s mitochondria. The nucleus from the mother’s egg is plucked and then placed in a healthy donor egg to be fertilized, or a fertilized egg.

The jury is out. Thus far, it appears only one child, born April 2016, in Mexico, assisted with a U.S. medical team, is the product of this experimental procedure. Whether or not this process will in fact avoid serious health risks will be determined as the child continues to grow.

There has always been controversy over human embryo research. Concerns that jump out are the commercialism of such procedures, impacting on an (“innocent”) embryo. MRT preclinical research or clinical investigations involve the creation, manipulation and possible destruction of embryos. Others say MRT is not about saving children because the technique does not address a medical need likened to treating someone who is currently stricken. And, of course, there are other not so controversial options available. Families may be created through other means, notwithstanding the children will not be genetically related to the mother. Research and funding would be better spent by focusing on children afflicted with diseases caused by mutation in the genes of the nuclear DNA, rather than embryos.

Once again I say, DNA, what’s it to you?