Monday, November 28, 2011

More Parents, Less Diseases?

The question of how to avoid the deadly mitochondrial diseases that kill thousands of children each year may come in an unexpected answer. Creating three-parent embryos would prevent the mother from passing the mitochondrial disease to the child by using a donor mother with healthy mitochondrial DNA. Only mitochondrial DNA from the mother is inherited, so if the mother carries the disease than this technique could prevent the child from getting it.  The embryo would still inherit its physical characteristics from the two parents, but using the third parent's donor egg with healthy mitochondria would prevent the disease from being inherited. These techniques have been studied on mice, monkeys and human cells but have not been used in clinical settings yet. One in 6,500 children develop a disease due to a mitochondrial mutation. Some examples of these are blindness, deafness, epilepsy and type 2 diabetes. Although in vitro and GM technologies often raise many ethical issues, this research could definitely prove interesting and could change the idea of the nuclear two parent family unit.

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