Research to get children from three biological parents is a controversial method, but with great potential.
Just a year ago, the United Kingdom gave the green light to possible investigations with this In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) method, where the third father contributes just a few genes in the total percentage of the entire genome of the future baby, with the aim of solving the problems caused by the Mitochondrial DNA defective, a type of DNA that is only found in mitochondria (a cell origin, responsible for cell metabolism).
This DNA has a particularity, and that is that only received from the motherTherefore, the diseases caused by this type of DNA are only inherited through the mother. And now, thanks to the research of scientists from the New Castle University, it is possible that the way has been paved to be able to solve this type of diseases.
Children of three biological parents: The future is already here
The technique used by these researchers, whose study has been published in Nature, is called mitochondrial replacement therapy or MRT, which at the moment has only been tested with healthy and quite successful embryos. If the safety of this method is substantiated, human trials could begin in as little as one or two years.
Using the MRT technique, defective mother-transmitted mitochondrial DNA is exchanged with versions of healthy mitochondrial DNA from a female donor. Said defective mitochondrial DNA is characterized by producing degenerative genetic diseases, making it difficult to solve the problems it causes. However, thanks to research like this, the children of three biological parents will be able to give us therapy with a future: Both parents will exist together with a third mother, who will only provide the mitochondrial DNA, 0.2% of the child’s total genes.. This method does not alter other characteristics such as hair color or eyes, for example.
The team of researchers from New Castle lI have been working on the MRT method since 2010, improving it over time. In the first experiments, the defective mitochondria ended up transferring, but in the 200 successful experiments, almost 79% of the embryos had less than 2% of defective mitochondria (children with less than 30% defective mitochondrial DNA, which does not usually produce disease).
Mitochondrial replacement therapy, a treatment still to be polished
Obviously, 79% of success leaves room for improvement, so we cannot say that the MRT method is perfect: Compared to normal In Vitro Fertilization, some cells in the study embryos with replaced mitochondrial DNA ended up showing increased levels of this defective DNA as the cell multiplied.
On the other hand, It is not known how this MRT therapy would affect the newborn in the long term., so the researchers initially hope to test this method in male infants in the first instance (since only women can transmit mitochondrial DNA). At the moment there is a lot to do, because everything is not yet said. At least it is a good sign that last February a biotics committee of the United States FDA approved the MRT technique, although for now the US Congress has paralyzed funding for this type of experiment. Luckily, the UK gave the green light.