Making Babies with 3 Genetic Parents Gets FDA Hearing

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A reproductive technology that taps three parents’ DNA as a way to eliminate hereditary diseases could reach clinical trials if the Food and Drug Administration gives the go-ahead.

Reproductive technologies that marry DNA from three individuals will receive a trial in the court of public opinion this week. Such technologies may hold promise for averting certain genetically inherited diseases passed down via mutations to mitochondria, the cell’s battery pack.

Scientists have already had successes with this type of reproductive approach in monkeys and in human embryos, and are now eager to launch human clinical trials. First, however, they must get the green light from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which will convene a public hearing before an advisory committee on February 25.

The technology, called oocyte modification (but sometimes nicknamed “three-parent IVF”), involves scooping out potentially mutated mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) from a woman’s egg and replacing it with the mtDNA of an unaffected donor woman. The process is designed to prevent the transmission of some debilitating inherited mitochondrial diseases, which can result in vision loss, seizures and other maladies. Such inherited diseases, often unfortunately known by acronyms for complex medical names that include LHON, for Leber’s Hereditary Optic Neuropathy, along with MELASMERRF and NARP, occur in about one in every 5,000 live births and are incurable.

Once the mtDNA has been swapped out, the egg could be fertilized in the lab by the father’s sperm and the embryo would be implanted back into mom where pregnancy would proceed. The resulting child would be the genetic offspring of the intended mother but would carry healthy mitochondrial genes from the donor.

Although the mitochondrial genome is quite small, the genes themselves are avid reproducers, so that an individual cell contains hundreds or thousands of copies of its DNA. The mutation rate of mtDNA is much higher than that of nuclear DNA and such miscodes can cause severe damage to any part of the body.
Written By: Dina Fine Maron
continue to source article at scientificamerican.com

23 COMMENTS

  1. Here is a golden opportunity to get rid of faulty genes without individuals having to suffer maladies and deformities.

    Not that that will be a consideration of the Faith-head dogmatists, who will jump up and down ranting in irrational knee-jerk opposition as usual!

  2. Alan4-
    i do see a danger here. Once the technology spreads, some country somewhere in need of cash might allow complete “designer children”
    and it’s already tough enough for the smart offspring of ordinary folks to compete with even the dumb children of the elites. Give those elite kids genetically engineered advantages as well and …

    • In reply to #4 by rjohn19:

      Alan4-
      i do see a danger here. Once the technology spreads, some country somewhere in need of cash might allow complete “designer children”

      Except those are completely different technologies. I’m not sure there is any pool of “super” mitochondrial DNA out there that will turn your child into a genius, etc.

    • In reply to #4 by rjohn19:

      it’s already tough enough for the smart offspring of ordinary folks to compete with even the dumb children of the elites.

      I chose to read this as a joke because the spectre of a small brigade of the dumb offspring of the elites immediately sprang to mind. If we ordinary folk can avoid passing nasty genetic faults to our offspring all well and good IMO. I have a couple of genetic faults of my own that have been handed down along the female line, unfortunately.

  3. Would this two mother concept of mitochondrial DNA replacement create fertile offspring ? which mothers genes would the genes of the individual replicate when it later produces its own offspring ?

    • In reply to #6 by Light Wave:

      Would this two mother concept of mitochondrial DNA replacement create fertile offspring ? which mothers genes would the genes of the individual replicate when it later produces its own offspring ?

      The genes that go into the egg cell nucleus come from the mother that produced the egg and the genes that go into the cell mitochondria come from the mother that donated the mitochondria. These remain separate genetic components.

      So, if the child is male then it will pass half the egg mother’s genes in his sperm, but the mitochondria will come from his partner not his other mother.
      But if the child is female then half the egg Mother’s genes and all the mitochondrial mother’s mithochondrial DNA will be passed on in the usual way.

    • Did you read the article? The nuclear (“regular”) DNA would be the same as the egg-mother’s, and would replicate normally. The mitochondrial DNA donated from the “third parent” would also replicate normally, so the answer to your second question is “both”.

      In reply to #6 by Light Wave:

      Would this two mother concept of mitochondrial DNA replacement create fertile offspring ? which mothers genes would the genes of the individual replicate when it later produces its own offspring ?

      • In reply to #15 by broginator:

        In reply to #6 by Light Wave:
        Did you read the article?

        >
        >

        Why – Did you ? and one can have questions about the said article can one not ? I received a very good answer already Thanks ! which explained my question perfectly….I have no problem asking for clarification when I don’t quite understand a subject – but in no way is this an invitation for uneducated or sarcastic answerers – I was more looking to the experts on this thread for my answer.

  4. I wonder if anyone has considered that dating using micondrial DNA will become somewhat less reliable after this. I’m not suggesting they shouldn’t do it but wide spead genetic manipulate will make it difficult to trace ancestory after this starts.

    • In reply to #8 by Reckless Monkey:

      I wonder if anyone has considered that dating using micondrial DNA will become somewhat less reliable after this. I’m not suggesting they shouldn’t do it but wide spead genetic manipulate will make it difficult to trace ancestory after this starts.

      Not if you keep a record of the procedure as well as a birth certificate. In any case, I think the priority should be on relieving people of genetic diseases that can cause suffering and premature death, even if it means difficulty in tracing one’s family tree later, but it would be better if both the child’s welfare and their family tree records were preserved.

      • In reply to #9 by Zeuglodon:

        In reply to #8 by Reckless Monkey:

        I wonder if anyone has considered that dating using micondrial DNA will become somewhat less reliable after this.

        Not if you keep a record of the procedure as well as a birth certificate

        Genealogy sites seem to have a hard enough time trying to deal with simple exceptions such as adoption. I doubt they will quickly catch on to supporting 3 parent children either any time soon. I have to say this is brilliant news though. We can hopefully alleviate the suffering of so many people with this breakthrough.

  5. A very enlightening article concerning the inheritance of disease carrying gene mutatations!
    Perhaps this modification could encourage cultural consanguinity within Pakistani society?
    I seriously doubt this possibility!

  6. What about accidentally increasing the number of genetically inherited undesirable traits or diseases into the gene pool with this process? It seems to me that one not only has a responsibility to the individual but to future generations to may be affected in unintended ways.

  7. Technology should be developed… !!! Under no circumstances should a scientific or medical research be given up over moral qualms. But it necessarily doesn’t mean it should be implemented on day to day basis. Not everything should be researched only under the terms of “Useful to humans or not”. Though a research could be of no immediate use to the humankind, its further derivative could be in the future.

    But who regulates it and its implementation, who will have authority over a technology and where does the priority of these civic bodies lies needs to be balanced on the tightest moral fiber. And by today’s standards FDA should be the last thing to be regulating the scientific research in america, being the one of the most corrupt organisations in the US.

  8. Nitya- Not really a joke. Statistically, the wealth of the parents is by far the greatest predictor children’s success and literally in America (formerly know as the Land of Opportunity) a dumb rich kid will do better in life than a poor smart kid. Look no farther than George “Dubbie” Bush for a splash of evidence.

  9. In reply to #18 by rjohn19:

    Nitya- Not really a joke. Statistically, the wealth of the parents is by far the greatest predictor children’s success and literally in America (formerly know as the Land of Opportunity) a dumb rich kid will do better in life than a poor smart kid. Look no farther than George “Dubbie” Bush for a s…

    I agree! You’ve misunderstood. I can actually think of a small band of extremely dumb ( though very rich ) sons of the very rich!

    I thought your comment was very funny , so I’m disappointed that I failed to give this impression.

  10. In reply to #6 by Light Wave:

    Would this two mother concept of mitochondrial DNA replacement create fertile offspring ? which mothers genes would the genes of the individual replicate when it later produces its own offspring ?

    Yes. And– the “individual” would be replicating their OWN genes.

  11. In reply to #2 by Alan4discussion:

    Here is a golden opportunity to get rid of faulty genes without individuals having to suffer maladies and deformities.

    Not that that will be a consideration of the Faith-head dogmatists, who will jump up and down ranting in irrational knee-jerk opposition as usual!

    But, you have to take into account the possibility of babies being born with three heads… I mean, isn’t that how these things work? :D

  12. In reply to #17 by LucifeLMartelL:

    Technology should be developed… !!! Under no circumstances should a scientific or medical research be given up over moral qualms. But it necessarily doesn’t mean it should be implemented on day to day basis. Not everything should be researched only under the terms of “Useful to humans or not”. Tho…

    So you think we should under no circumstance object to viruses or bacteria being developed with the sole intention of killing human beings? Or perhaps just human beings with a certain racial profile? That is scientific research as well, and I mean these inventions would most likely not be used on a day to day basis. Only when you want to kill a lot of people…

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