In a world first, a baby has been born with the DNA from 3 people. With mum and dad’s DNA and a little genetic code from a donor. It sounds confusing but trust me, it makes perfect sense when you hear how it’s done.
Image source: bbc.com
How Is It Done?
A Jordanian couple have suffered more loss in their lifetime than anyone should have to deal with. The mother has a genetic defect that is passed down in her genes. Doctors took a step to ensure the mother had the chance to conceive and keep her child by carefully taking the faulty gene out of her egg and replacing it with a donor’s gene, called mitochondrial donation.
It is one step closer to helping those with rare genetic conditions. Pretty cool right?
Mitochondria are tiny structures inside nearly every cell of your body that convert food into usable energy. Some women carry genetic disorders that don’t affect them, but will affect a child conceived. Such is the case with the Jordanian couple, she carries a disorder called Leigh Syndrome. They had already suffered 4 miscarriages and the loss of 2 children, all from Leigh Syndrome.
What Is Leigh Syndrome?
Leigh Syndrome is a sever neurological disorder that affects at least 1 in 40,000 newborns. It usually becomes apparent in the first year of a child’s life with symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhoea and difficulty swallowing. Progressively losing movement, it deteriorates mental functions. Usually children don’t live past the age of 2-3, with cause of death being respiratory failure.
Scientists understand women can carry these defects and they have devised fertility treatments to help. In Mexico, there are no laws to carry out such a procedure, so the US team packed up and travelled over. They used a method that takes all vital DNA from mum’s egg, plus healthy mitochondria from the donor egg.
This creates a new healthy egg that can be fertilised with the father’s sperm, resulting in a baby with only 0.1% DNA from the donor. With all attributes from mum and dad, but no genetic defect, no one would be able to tell the baby has a third person’s DNA.
Dr John Zhang, medical director at the New Hope Fertility Centre in New York City, and his colleagues used this specific method to make five embryos but only one of them developed normally. Fertility experts say that it is important to push forward but to proceed with caution. It’s not a race to the finish line.
Giving New Hope
This could be a major breakthrough for women with rare genetic conditions and if it gives them a chance to have a baby, I think it’s a great idea. Everyone should be able to experience the joys of motherhood.