|In vitro fertilization – FC2298|
The British government voted to allow researchers to pursue a controversial fertility treatment which involves altering an embryo’s DNA in order to prevent certain genetic diseases. In some situations, a mother’s egg cell may contain disease-causing mutations in their mitochondrial DNA that may be passed on to their children. The technique, known as mitochondrial DNA replacement therapy, involves extracting the genetic material from the mother’s defective egg and transferring it to a donor egg with healthy mitochondria. The resulting embryo will contain genetic information from the parents’ nuclear DNA, while also carrying mitochondrial DNA from the egg donor.
Mitochondria are organelles responsible for a cell’s energy production, and contain their own separate DNA which has not effect on inherited traits such as height, hair color, eye color, etc. When genetic material in the mitochondria is faulty, cells are not able to work properly and result in mitochondrial disease. Some children born with mitochondrial disease die within months or may exhibit a variety of symptoms later in life. However some opponents cite that not enough is known about the possible long-term effects of DNA replacement therapy, as well as the ethical questions surrounding genetic modification.