Babies with 3 Parents just Around the Corner
If you ever wondered what your baby might look like if you, for example could add a friend or family members’ genes into the mix, time might be on your side. Genetic scientists have announced a breakthrough which just might make “designer babies” the norm in just two years or less. It should be stressed however that this process is, at least for the present time, being considered as a preventative measure to help lower instances of common yet deadly mitochondrial (MtDNA) diseases. The scientists, based in the UK, claim that their technique is safe and there is no harm to the offspring, however regulatory bodies in the country are already insisting the practice must be further studied and potentially regulated. Current fertility regulations are now being discussed throughout the region in anticipation of this new fertility science breakthrough.
Mum, Dad, and Donor Mum?
The current hypothesis put out by the geneticists is based on the way in which mitochondrial DNA is passed: always from the mother to her offspring- regardless of the sex. It is in fact a great way of determining maternal lineage. In cases where DNA testing has proven that the mother is a carrier of a genetic condition which causes mitochondrial disease, a second mother- the donor- would be utilized to neutralize the condition.
The process is completed in three relatively simple steps as explained by scientists looking at this problem:
1. An unhealthy, or genetically predispositioned embryo from the female containing the unhealthy mitochondrial DNA is separated from at the cellular level, only extracting the nucleus portion of the cell, leaving behind the damaged MtDNA.
2. A healthy embryo of a woman is processed just like above however in reverse. The mitochondrial DNA which is healthy in this woman is removed and the nucleuses are discarded.
3. In the final step, the healthy mitochondrial DNA from the donor female is combined at the cellular level with the nucleus from the original woman, thus creating a final embryo containing both healthy nuclei from the mother, and healthy MtDNA from the donor woman.
In this way scientists believe the resulting illness which the original mother would have passed on genetically to her offspring can now be avoided. The removal of the bad MtDNA and the substitution of the good MtDNA means the child should have no cellular disease while still being essentially the true biological offspring of the original mother.
Deadly Mitochondrial Disease: More Common Than You Think!
MtDNA diseases are fairly prevalent these days and it is estimated that one in 6,500 children born will suffer from this deadly affliction. The illness originates at the cellular level where the MtDNA becomes so damaged that it cannot do its job: supply energy to cells. Without proper energy for cells to function, divide and grow, the body simply shuts down. Muscle weakness, blindness, heart failure and eventual death is the sober outlook for most of these stricken children.
This process of genetic swapping is something scientists hope will not only eliminate these unnecessary and tragic deaths, but will also lead to many more applications to help reduce, eliminate, and hopefully prevent a whole myriad of genetically based disorders and disease.