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Controversial genetic treatment using three-parent embryo may be ready in two years

Mitochondrial disease afflicts around 100 babies born in the UK every year. Read how it relates to fertility treatment..

The experimental treatment, known as mitochondrial replacement, involves taking the genetic material from a man and a woman and cellular material from a third person to create an embryo. It exchanges the faulty mitochondria from the mother with those from a healthy donor. It is controversial because mitochondria carry a small amount of DNA, and the law currently rules out all treatments on humans that require changing their DNA.The experimental treatment, known as mitochondrial replacement, involves taking the genetic material from a man and a woman and cellular material from a third person to create an embryo. It exchanges the faulty mitochondria from the mother with those from a healthy donor. It is controversial because mitochondria carry a small amount of DNA, and the law currently rules out all treatments on humans that require changing their DNA.

Dr Magdy Asaad, Clinical Director at LFC comments

"Mitochondria exist in nearly every cell of the human body, producing 90 percent of the energy the body needs to function.  In a person with mitochondrial disease, the mitochondria are failing and cannot convert food and oxygen into life-sustaining energy. The parts of the body that need the most energy, such as the heart, brain, muscles and lungs, are the most affected by mitochondrial disease. (United Mitochondrial Foundation).

Mitochondrial replacement aims to allow a small number of women with rare severe mitochondrial disease to have a healthy and mostly genetically related child. There are two or three techniques suggested by researchers mainly work by removing the nucleus of an affected woman's extracted egg and placing it into a donated egg of another woman, containing her mitochondria, after removing its nucleus. The child would thus be genetically related to three people. This has not yet been approved for trials on humans, but if approved and successful, it could offer hope to children of affected individuals. There are major clinical and ethical concerns and the debate continues. These are promising techniques but it will be a long time before they can be clinically applied."

Read the full article on The Guardian newspaper website

Read more about it on The Telegraph newspaper website