Three-parent fertility treatment approved by UK Parliament
FDA committee considering similar action
A form of assisted reproductive technology that could make it possible for women with mutations in mitochondrial DNA to give birth to children free of mitochondrial disease has been approved by UK’s House of Commons. A Food and Drug Administration (FDA) committee is considering granting similar approval for use of the technique—known as oocyte modification or three-parent gene therapy—in the United States.
Reporting in The New England Journal of Medicine, investigators from Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, estimated that approximately 150 births annually could be impacted if clinics in the United Kingdom were licensed to perform the procedure. The technique involves injection of cellular material from a healthy donor egg into an unfertilized egg from a woman with mitochondrial disease prior to in vitro fertilization (IVF). When the ooplasm is transferred during IVF, it thus contains genetic material from three individuals: the biological parents and the ooplasm donor.
Mitochondria are membrane-enclosed cytoplasmic organelles responsible for synthesis of ATP by oxidative phosphorylation for use in energy-requiring processes in the cell. Accumulations of mitochondrial mutations throughout a person’s life may contribute to the aging process, cancer, and a number of metabolic diseases.
The UK action, which must be approved by the House of Lords, was controversial because the alterations in an embryo’s DNA can be passed on to subsequent generations. Among the risks being considered by the FDA Cellular, Tissue, and Gene Therapies Advisory Committee are epigenetic changes that could put a fetus at risk of diseases or developmental problems related to aberrant imprinting, alteration in the number of mitochondria, and carryover of mutant mitochondria.