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Three-person IVF hope

15th April 2010

Scientists at Newcastle University have created embryos containing DNA from a man and two women.

Embryo

Writing in the journal Nature, they say that their research has the potential to help mothers with rare genetic disorders have healthy children.

The aim is to prevent damaged DNA in mitochondria - the "batteries" which power the cell - from being passed on by the mother.

While IVF clinics are not currently permitted to carry out this procedure, about one in 200 children are born each year with mutations in the mitochondrial DNA.

Most children who have mitochondrial disease have mild symptoms but in more extreme cases it can cause death, muscular weakness, blindness or heart failure.

The research has been funded by the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign, Medical Research Council and the Wellcome Trust and carried out under terms of a licence granted by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA).

Using newly fertilised eggs left over from IVF treatment the scientists have developed a technique which would potentially allow them to replace defective mitochondria during IVF.

A total of 80 embryos were created.

Lead author Professor Doug Turnbull said: “What we've done is like changing the battery on a laptop - he energy supply now works properly, but none of the information on the hard drive has been changed.

“A child born using this method would have correctly functioning mitochondria, but in every other respect would get all their genetic information from their father and mother.”

However critics say the research raises important ethical issues as well as potential risks.

 

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