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Infertile couple have baby using mitochondrial donation

Antony Blackburn-Starza

Progress Educational Trust

29 January 2017

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[BioNews, London]

A baby has been born in the Ukraine following the use of an experimental IVF procedure known as mitochondrial donation.

Dr Valery Zukin, director of the Nadiya Clinic for Reproductive Medicine in Kiev, announced two pregnancies in October last year following use of a mitochondrial technique called pronuclear transfer that had been performed at the clinic, and which led to the birth of a baby girl on 5 January.

The technique involves fertilising two eggs – one from the mother and one from a donor – with the father's sperm and transferring the nuclear material from the mother's embryo to the donor's embryo. The newly created embryo gets its nuclear DNA from its mother and father, but its mitochondrial DNA is inherited from the donor.

News of the birth has attracted attention for the creation of a child with genetic material from three people – the mother, father and the donor – but also because it was employed as a means to address difficulties in conceiving, rather than preventing the transmission of mitochondrial disease, which can be potentially fatal.  

While mitochondrial donation, including the technique used in the Ukraine, is permitted in the UK under a licence granted by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), it is only allowed if the patient is at risk of passing on a serious mitochondrial disease. However, in this case, Dr Zukin explained that the child's mother was affected by unexplained fertility and the technique was used as a means to prevent embryo arrest.

Speaking on the BBC World Service's Newshour, Sandy Starr of the Progress Educational Trust, which publishes BioNews, said there was no clear evidence that such a technique would work in these circumstances.

'There's little evidence that this technique will work to address embryo arrest. Mitochondrial donation involves risks which have been thoroughly assessed in the UK, but have only been assessed in relation to patients trying to avoid the transmission of mitochondrial disease, and it's on that basis that people have decided that in very specific circumstances and a regulated environment the risk is worth taking.

'Whether the risk is worth taking in relation to an experimental fertility treatment technique is as yet unexplored', he said.

While the UK is the first country to legislate to allow mitochondrial donation, the HFEA has not yet granted a licence to perform the technique in patients, although it is expected that the first procedures may be carried out in the UK later this year. The HFEA has conducted a series of reviews examining the safety and efficacy of mitochondrial donation, the last of which was in December when it approved its 'cautious clinical use' in the UK.

However, there remain concerns regarding the future inheritance of the donated mitochondria. Lori Knowles, assistant professor at the University of Alberta School of Public Health in Canada, told CNN News that the fact the child born in the Ukraine is a girl raises the concern that the donated mitochondria can be passed on to future generations.

'I do think it's highly significant that this is a girl because we know for sure that she will be passing on her mitochondrial DNA through her maternal line,' she said: '… that's always been a really bright line.'

Starr thinks these risks may be permissible in the face of passing on potentially fatal mitochondrial disease, but the case is less clear in the context of general fertility issues.

Professor Adam Balen, chairman of the British Fertility Society, also raised concerns over the experimental nature of pronuclear transfer. 'We would be extremely cautious about adopting this approach to improve IVF outcomes,' he said.

The child is not the first person to be born following the use of modern mitochondrial donation techniques. Last year, Dr John Zhang, founder of New Hope Fertility Center in New York, US, reported the birth of a baby conceived following mitochondrial donation using the maternal spindle transfer technique. The technique differs from pronuclear transfer in that the nuclear material from the intending mother's egg – prior to fertilisation – is placed into the denucleated egg of a healthy donor.

In this case the mother was at risk of passing on faulty mitochondria. However the birth attracted controversy since the procedure was carried out in Mexico where there are no federal laws regulating assisted conception, and thus no restrictions on the use of mitochondrial donation techniques.

The phenomenon of 'three person' babies is also not new - the late 1990s and early 2000s saw the birth of a small number of children in the US with genetic material from three people, following use of a technique called cytoplasmic transfer. However, the US Food and Drug Administration put a stop to use of the technique – which is different to mitochondrial donation – amid reports of genetic abnormalities in some of the children conceived in this way. 

© Copyright Progress Educational Trust

Reproduced with permission from BioNews, an email and online sources of news, information and comment on assisted reproduction and genetics.

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Date Added: 29 January 2017   Date Updated: 29 January 2017
Customer Reviews (1)
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Ke-Hui Cui   01 February 2017
M.D., Ph.D.
CHANGING HUMAN BEINGS BY MRT IS MISLEADING AND NOT SCIENTIFIC Human beings are superior to animals depends on the superiority of heredity of human genes, which is originated by natural (or “green”) selection in million years rather by artificial manufacture. Genetic diseases are the kind of natural selection to abandon those abnormal results from gene mutation or chromosomal abnormalities and keep human beings to be healthy. New gene mutation and new chromosomal abnormalities will continuously happen, including mitochrondrial diseases. Preimplantaion genetic diagnoses (PGD) and prenatal diagnoses are the best tools developed by us to prevent genetic diseases without changing human beings. Using mitochondrial replacement therapy (MRT), gene correction (CRISPR, etc.), stem cell or artificial germline to produce artificial human beings is misleading and not scientific, because they will stop the natural development of human beings. To produce artificial human beings (i.e. sub-human beings or “three parent’s offspring, or offspring from gene-transfer germline) is not ethical, not humanistic. It will greatly ruin human beings. In Second World War, Adolf Hitler and Nazi eugenics could not ruin human beings, because people in the world recognized that was not correct and opposed them. However, the recent artificial human beings can ruin human beings. So many pseudoscientists, money-chasing media and bureaucratic law-makers and officials are keen to the subject of artificial human beings and MRT. It is shame that they claim that MRT “gives women who have mitochondrial DNA mutations reproductive choice, and … delighted for them.” MRT is not scientific. The facts and reasons are: 1. The creators of MRT did not know the basic theory of cell biology. A lot of mitochrondrial diseases are produced by the both cytoplasm mitochrondrial DNA and nuclear (chromosomal) DNA, rather than cytoplasm mitochrondrial DNA only. Nuclear DNA also regulate cytoplasm mitochrondrial DNA. MRT can not solve this basic biological problem. 2. MRT techniques are not safe. All of the nuclear chromosomes or spindle chromosomes are binding to the microtubules anchored on the cell membrane. The spindle or pronuclear transfer techniques should tear and break the microtubules for transfer. The torn microtubules can not connect to the original position with original length, which will lead to chromosomal abnormalities or gene abnormalities, and produce abnormal fetus or babies. John Zhang produced five pregnancies in China in 2003 and all five of them were stillbirth. And until now, John Zhang did not have any knowledge and ability to analyze what was the reason of those still birth. 3. The health report of 17 teenagers from MRT performed by Jacques Cohen showed the results were not healthy. Three child’s data was absent. Others showed more immune deficiencies and neuropathy problem than usual incident rate from general population. The fact showed: It is not possible to obtain detail data about all of the offspring for further scientific results. Most those parents wish to hide the fact of three parent from their children. Also, those children did not be marked on the birth certificate that their genes containing three parent’s genes, which is totally not responsible for the further health of human being. All of their procedures are not scientific and not ethical. 4. When mother has mitochrondrial disease, the nuclear DNA of her oocytes are lack of energy to get normal development, which will lead to the oocytes containing abnormal methylation or leading to earlier degenerated. To use this kind of ill or partly ill spindle DNA or nuclear DNA from the oocytes to produce babies will get unhealthy child. Not healthy oocytes can only produce non-healthy babies. To use donor’s oocytes is much easier and healthier. 5. Why do these pseudoscientists knowing that “the technique (of MRT) is currently imperfect” and still going on clinical practice so in a hurry? For the parent to get a healthy child? It is logically wrong. The fact is: They use MRT to be a billboard to show people how advanced techniques and research the country and their institute have. Their aim is for money, trillions dollars. This is a kind of “nationalism”. UK, U.S. and China are all competing on it. It is a negative competition. Propaganda is loud and action is very, very slowly, trying not break the red line of heredity of human being. It is like walking on an iron line. Who perform MRT on the patient first, or who will break the red line to challenge natural human being (changing “green” human beings to be sub-human beings) first, who will be low intelligence quotient (IQ) and turning to be the enemy of our human beings. John Zhang got it first. He talked nonsense to New China news agency that MRT is a new generation of IVF techniques and he will further perform a new bigger program. What is his new program? OvaSciences in Wall Street share market has outlined as mitochondrial Augment Program (See wetsite OvaSciences for detail), which suggested artificially extracted mitochondria should be injected into every eggs to obtain human babies. That is to make every family and every child to be sub-human beings. Just by talking, OvaSciences has collected billions dollars in Nasdaq share market in about four years. If Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) approve MRT for clinical use in UK, it will mean HFEA formally declare the start of producing three parent human beings. It is similarly as to declare a formal war to our natural human beings. Money will make everything changing to some degree that we will not foresee at the time being. They will control medical field, media, congress man, law maker and legislation. Now they have control British congress and HFEA already. The war without gun fight would last several generations to several centuries. The new society of sub-human beings could be formed and our human beings would be suppressed. Thus, MRT is totally not scientific, but political and money-chasing. It is a new kind of corruption in modern science. To change human beings in heredity should get approval from all the people in the world, rather than HFEA or pseudoscientists. Any malpractice to change human beings in heredity should be punished by law. Please also read: 1. “HUMAN BEINGS SHOULD NOT BE CHANGED IN HEREDITY” published on ivf.net 18 October 2016 comment for “Mitochondrial replacement therapy and the welfare of the child” response on 02 November 2016. 2. “Fact Sheet 2. Re: Not Suitability To Use Artificially Created, Modified Or Reprogrammed Human Eggs (Or Sperm) To Produce Babies” (Letter to FDA on March 22, 2013) published on ivf.net 25 October, 2016 comment for “Functional mouse eggs made from artificial stem cells” response on 11 November 2016. 3. “CHANGING HUMAN BEINGS IN HEREDITY IS MISLEADING AND INFAMOUS” published on ivf.net 01 November 2016 comment for “ ‘Three-person babies’ grow up into healthy teenagers” response on 07 November 2016.

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