There are currently no treatments for mitochondrial diseases, and the mothers who carry the genetic mutation must make the hard decision about whether to have children and risk passing that mutation on.
About one in every 200 children is born annually with mitochondrial DNA mutations. In most cases, there are mild forms of the disease and sometimes no symptoms exist at all. But, when you widen the numbers, about one in 6500 children suffer severe mitochondrial diseases which might include learning disability, blindness, muscular weakness, diabetes, and fatal heart or liver failure, with death occurring in early infancy.
Each cell in our bodies has two types of DNA: nuclear and mitochondrial. Both parents contribute the nuclear DNA while the moms alone contribute the mitochondrial DNA. While the mitochondrial DNA brings a small number of genes, they are vitally important controlling the cellular function in every cell of our bodies.
UK scientists have now developed a fertilization procedure that uses the nuclear DNA of the father and mother, but the mitochondrial DNA of a third egg donor. The process gives women with a history of mitochondrial disease a chance at having a healthy baby, through in vitro fertilization.
The researchers published their findings in the journal Nature in mid April. They succeeded for the first time in removing the “pro-nuclei” from human fertilized eggs and placing it in another fertilized egg which had its mutated “pro-nuclei” previously removed. The result was a fertilized human egg with three DNA contributors.
Professor Doug Turnbull one of the co-leaders of the research stated, “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.” Turnbull said this procedure has “immense potential to help families at risk from mitochondrial disease.”
Source: Catharine Paddock/Medical News Today, Newcastle University