In 2015, the United Kingdombecame the first country in the world to permit techniques designed to eradicate the transmission of serious mitochondrial diseases from mother to child, to be carried out in the course of IVF treatment. Mitochondrial diseases include diabetes mellitus, deafness and some heart and liver conditions.
These are caused by genetic faults in mitochondrial DNA inherited only from mothers. Successful research by Alison Murdoch, professor of reproductive medicine and gynaecologist, Newcastle Fertility Centre at Life, UK, to reduce the risk of transmission of mitochondrial disease to the baby led to a UK legislation to enable the translation of the techniques to clinical practice.
Murdoch was at Santhathi Center for Reproductive Medicine here and spoke about the novel IVF technology called ‘Three Parent IVF’ that helps prevent genetic diseases in high-risk families. Incidentally, the world’s first ‘Three Parent IVF’ baby was born on the same day in Mexico.
Talking exclusively to STOI, she said her centre was ready to carry out Three Parent IVF as soon as they get a licence from The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), UK.
How close are you to the first Three Parent IVF baby?
In 2015, the United Kingdom Parliament said it would be legal. But we have to get a licence from the authorities to do it. We are working to make it as safe as we think it can possibly be. Also we wanted reproducible results, not freak results. We have published that data in ‘Nature’ in June 2016. The same was submitted to The Human Fertilisa tion and Embryology Authority and they are deciding whether we can have a licence. We will apply for a licence as soon as HEFA says we can. We have patients ready to start treatment.
What about the world’s first three-parent baby born to a Jordanian couple due to the procedure done by Dr John Zhang?
It has been announced. But we can’t study or confirm what he has done. All he’s said is a baby has been created this way. The announcement is unusual because normally announcements are done with scientific back up so experts can look at the data and say whether it is correct or not.
One thing we did in ‘Nature’ is that all the methodology was there and the procedure was written like recipe. It wouldn’t be surprising if there are other people around the world who are not bound by regulations, doing it.
What are the long-term effects of having a bay with three donors?
We don’t know definitely, because we have not done it yet. The purpose of scientific work is to make sure we have the lowest possible chance of harming children born from it. The embryos we create undergo tests that IVF babies undergo. We are quite confident we won’t do any harm.
What if the donor claims right to the child?
In UK, it is quite clear. The donor signs a form during donation and understand they are not the parent. The law says the child will not have any claim over that donor.
How do you get the eggs?
We ask healthy women to volunteer in the same way people volunteer to donate blood and sperm.
What is the mitochondrial incidence in the world and in India?
It is said about one in 8,000 babies is born with an identifiable disease related to mitochondrial abnormality and one in 5,000 ends up getting mitochondrial abnormalities. There is no evidence it’s any different than in India and UK.
It is the term used when you are changing the DNA and nucleus of the egg. We are talking about mitochondria. The UK law says it can be used only in cases of severe mitochondria. People have tried doing it for general IVF. But there is no evidence if it is of any benefit.