A new IVF procedure called mitochondrial donation treatment (MDT) has resulted in the birth of the first UK baby with DNA from three people.
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The first UK baby created with DNA from three people has been born after doctors performed a groundbreaking IVF procedure that aims to prevent children from inheriting incurable diseases.
The technique, known as mitochondrial donation treatment (MDT), uses tissue from the eggs of healthy female donors to create IVF embryos that are free from harmful mutations their mothers carry and are likely to pass on to their children.
Because the embryos combine sperm and egg from the biological parents with tiny battery-like structures called mitochondria from the donor’s egg, the resulting baby has DNA from the mother and father as usual, plus a small amount of genetic material – about 37 genes – from the donor.
The process has led to the phrase “three-parent babies”, though more than 99.8% of the DNA in the babies comes from the mother and father.
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Research on MDT, which is also known as mitochondrial replacement therapy (MRT), was pioneered in the UK by doctors at the Newcastle Fertility Centre. The work aimed to help women with mutated mitochondria to have babies without the risk of passing on genetic disorders. People inherit all their mitochondria from their mother, so harmful mutations in the “batteries” can affect all of the children a woman has.
For affected women, natural conception is often a gamble. Some babies might be born healthy because they inherit only a tiny proportion of the mutated mitochondria. But others may inherit far more and develop severe, progressive and often fatal diseases. About one in 6,000 babies are affected by mitochondrial disorders.
Most of a human’s 20,000 genes are coiled up in the nucleus of nearly every cell in the body. But dotted around each nucleus are thousands of mitochondria with their own genes. When functioning properly, the mitochondria provide vital energy for the cells that make up our organs. Mutations that damage the mitochondria tend to affect energy-hungry tissues most: the brain, heart, muscles, and liver. These can deteriorate relentlessly as an affected child grows.
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