TIME recently published an article about the success of maternal spindle transfer and how the technique may change reproductive medicine. Maternal spindle transfer was used by researchers at the Institute of Life in Athens, Greece to help develop an embryo for a woman who had experienced four failed cycles of IVF. The technique of maternal spindle transfer involves removing the grouped DNA from the mother’s egg and implanting it into a donor egg which has had its DNA removed. After the mother’s DNA has been transplanted into the donor egg, the egg is fertilized and developed into an embryo. This technique allows researchers to avoid issues with the mother’s egg that were preventing the formation of a viable embryo. Researchers believe that donor mitochondria are one of the reasons maternal spindle transfer has been successful. Recent research has shown that mitochondria play a large role in reproduction, especially with fertilization and growth of embryos in older women. Maternal spindle transfer has been used in the Ukraine to help women with mitochondrial diseases start families, however, this is the first time the technique has been used on a woman with no known mitochondrial issues. Researchers at the Institute of Health do not see maternal spindle transfer becoming the newest trend in assisted reproductive technology (ART). It is more likely that this technique will be used to help researchers learn what goes wrong in an egg as a woman ages and what steps can be done to reverse these changes.
While this technique may be able to help some start a family, there are some ethical dilemmas that need to be worked through for this method. This technique is very new and there is not enough research available to understand if there will be lasting consequences or side effects from introducing a third set of DNA into an embryo. While the baby was born healthy, will he face medical issues later in life because of how he was conceived? Also, all of this research has been conducted in Europe because it would be considered illegal in the U.S. United States law prohibits altering the genetic makeup of an embryo. Between the development of CRISPR, gene editing, and techniques like maternal spindle transfer, the United States government needs to reevaluate its policies and adjust them for the technologic advancements that have been made. Personally, I am opposed to allowing maternal spindle transfer here in the U.S. I feel that the lack of research and unknown consequences justify stopping research on this method.