- A Greek woman gave birth to a baby with DNA from three parents on Tuesday, with doctors saying the procedure was “making medical history.”
- So-called mitochondria replacement therapy (MRT) combines a woman’s egg with the mitochondria from a donor’s egg, and fertilizes it with a man’s sperm.
- The procedure was developed to prevent mothers from passing genetic diseases on to their babies, but is now being used to help families struggling with infertility issues.
- Critics question if it is ethical use the procedure for infertility issues, and it is banned in the US.
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A Greek woman gave birth to a boy with DNA from three different parents on Tuesday, one of only a handful of successful births using a groundbreaking fertilization technique.
The Greek-Spanish doctors who undertook the procedure said they are “making medical history” with their clinical trial for the experimental IVF (in vitro fertilization) treatment, BBC News reported.
This type of IVF, known as mitochondria replacement therapy (MRT), can help infertile couples have a child by combining two women’s eggs and fertilizing it with a man’s sperm.
The procedure was originally developed to prevent mothers from passing on deadly mitochondrial diseases to their babies.
But the doctors at Spanish fertility specialists Embrytools used the procedure to overcome issues with conception, according to Barcelona Science Park, which hosts research team. The 32-year-old woman who gave birth to the child had previously been through four unsuccessful IVF cycles.
The procedure works by taking the nucleus of the infertile woman’s egg – which holds most of the genetic material – and transferring it into a donor egg that has had its nucleus removed. There, the woman’s nucleus is surrounded by healthy mitochondria. The donor egg is then fertilised.
Dr. Panagiotis Psathas, president of the Institute of Life in Athens, told the BBC that “a woman’s inalienable right to become a mother with her own genetic material became a reality” with the clinical trial.
Even though the procedure depends on a donor, the baby will mostly have DNA from the biological parents, Dr. Nuno Costa-Borges, the co-founder of Embryotools, told Barcelona Science Park.
“The donor will only provide mitochondrial DNA, which only codes 37 genes and represents less than 1% of human DNA,” he added.
Critics worry about ethical issues related to the procedure. The US banned MRT in 2015, claiming that it is a form of genetic modification.
The UK so far is the only country to officially legalise the therapy strictly to prevent mitochondrial diseases.
Tim Child, the medical director of The Fertility Partnership, told the BBC he is concerned there is no proven need for women to go through the procedure to overcome infertility.
“The risks of the technique aren’t entirely known, though may be considered acceptable if being used to treat mitochondrial disease, but not in this situation,” he said.
Embryotools said 24 other women are currently taking part in its clinical trial.
The baby born in Greece is not the first to be born in such a manner. In 2016, a Jordanian woman gave birth to the first three-parent baby with the help of a team from the New Hope Fertility Center in New York.
Due to the ban on the procedure in the US, the baby was born in Mexico. It was undertaken so the baby would not inherit the genes for a fatal nervous system disorder called Leigh syndrome.
A three-parent baby was also born in Ukraine in 2017, after the mother had tried unsuccessfully to have a child for 15 years.
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