Monday, February 08, 2016

ALL IN THE FAMILY - 3 'Parent' Babies

"Three-parent DNA treatment for rare defect raises debate" PBS NewsHour 2/3/2016


SUMMARY:  When women have defective mitochondria, their children can inherit terrible, sometimes fatal problems.  A new technology, pioneered in England, adds healthy cellular structure from a third person, meaning that children are born with DNA from three people.  William Brangham learns more from Jeffrey Kahn of Johns Hopkins University and Marcy Darnovsky of the Center for Genetics and Society.

GWEN IFILL (NewsHour):  Now to questions surrounding a significant advance in reproductive technology with DNA and embryos.

The change on the horizon was pioneered and approved in England and it is now being considered for use in the U.S.  Proponents believe it may eliminate dangerous disease in children, but others have raised ethical concerns.

Today, the National Academy of Sciences recommended that clinical trials go forward in the U.S.

William Brangham has our look.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM (NewsHour):  This new technology is called mitochondrial replacement technique, or MRT for shot.

Mitochondria are tiny structures that exist in nearly all the cells in our bodies, and have their own unique DNA.  The problem is, a very small number of women have defective mitochondria, and if they have children, those kids inherit their mom’s mitochondria and can suffer terrible, sometimes fatal, problems, including brain damage and heart failure.

This new technology would, in essence, replace that original mitochondria in either the mother’s egg or in the parents’ embryo with healthy mitochondria from a third person.  A child born this way would then be carrying the DNA of three different people.

Earlier today, patient advocate Laurie Strongin told us why the advance was so important for a small group of parents.

LAURIE STRONGIN, Patient Advocate:  One of the things that we have found is that parents’ desire to have genetically related offspring is a widely held desire.  It’s not universal, but it’s widely held.

And the potential to use MRT to have offspring who are genetically related to both parents is something that families who carry mtDNA disease really want.  And not everyone is going to pursue it, but for the family for whom having children who are — who have a nuclear genetic connection to them, this is something that will just be one of numerous options available to them.

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