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One Dad, Two Moms? Using Donor DNA To Prevent Disease

Huffington Post,  Oct 26, 2012

October 26, 2012

A new technique could be the key to preventing mitochondrial diseases from being inherited by a carrier’s offspring.

A report published Wednesday in the journal Nature, reveals the successful creation of embryos using DNA from one male and two females in an effort to weed out faulty genes passed on from the mother. If left uncorrected, they could result in severe medical disabilities or death of the child.

This study, out of Oregon Health and Sciences University, mimics one that caused ethical debate in Britain four years ago over the possibility of babies being born to three parents. The truth is, DNA from the donor would contribute such a small amount to the baby’s genes and would only replace the defective genes of the mother – a far cry from altering physical traits to create the implied “designer baby”.

The procedure calls for egg retrieval in both the mother and donor, not unlike a typical in vitro fertilization (IVF) cycle. The donor egg’s nucleus would be removed and replaced by the mother’s nucleus. The modified egg would then be fertilized by the father’s sperm, and the embryo transferred into the uterus of the mother.

Laurie Zoloth, a bioethicist at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, believes the impact of this type of procedure may not be evident for several generations. Zoloth admits this procedure comes with good intentions for preventing disease, however, "this might not be the best way to address it”, she says while offering up the alternative of preimplantation genetic screening (PGS) for selecting normal embryos.

Further longitudinal research is needed to determine health outcomes of the offspring and future generations.

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