New IVF technique could mean the end for mitochondrial disease

21st March 2011 in IVF

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The HFEA is planning to review a new IVF technique which could mean the end of mitochondrial disease.

Mitochondrial disease is incurable and causes a range of conditions including fatal heart problems and brain disorders. The disease – which can only be inherited from the mother – is caused by faulty mitochondrial DNA. Mitochondria is found in every cell in the body and provides the energy cells need to function.

The new technique involves implanting the fertilised egg’s nucleus – which contains no mitochondrial DNA – into a donated egg, which has had its nucleus removed. This means the resulting embryo has the genes of both parents, but the mitochondrial DNA of the donor, ensuring no faulty DNA is passed down from the mother to the child.

Although the new technique is not yet ready to be used in patients, the HFEA has been asked to start the review process now, which could take up to 12 months, to assess its effectiveness and if it is safe. If approved, current regulations will be amended to allow mitochondrial transfer techniques to be used.

Currently the only technique approved for use to prevent passing on serious inherited diseases, such as mitochondrial disease, is preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), but this only screens embryos and does not alter the DNA.

Last updated: 21st March 2011