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Mitochondrial donation treatment

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Mitochondrial donation treatment

Context:

  • Recently, the announcement that a baby was born using three persons’ DNA in the U. K. caused the stir.
  • The baby, technically, has three parents, deriving the mitochondria from a donor apart from the genetic material (DNA) from biological parents.
  • The technology was used in order to prevent the child from inheriting the mother’s mitochondrial disease.

Logic behind 3-parent baby:

  • The baby carried most of its DNA from its parents, and a minor per cent from the donor, whose mitochondria has been used while fertilising the egg.

What are mitochondrial diseases?

  • Mitochondria are basically the powerhouses of the cells.

  • They generate energy, and thus are also responsible for cell function in the human body.
  • Certain defects might occur impacting the way the mitochondria produces energy for the cells and thereby impacting cell function.
  • The diseases that arise out of such mitochondrial mutations are called mitochondrial diseases.
  • When the mitochondria are impaired and do not produce sufficient energy, it affects how organs function.
  • It may lead to a broad assortment of symptoms across the body, including brain damage, organ failure and muscle wastage.

Scientific process of Mitochondrial donation treatment:

  • Mitochondrial diseases are only passed on by the mother.
  • In this technology through an advanced in vitro fertilisation technique developed and refined by the Newcastle Fertility Clinic, the baby’s biological father’s sperm was used to fertilise the eggs from the biological mother, who has a mitochondrial disease, and a third, female donor with clear mitochondria, separately.

  • Then, the nuclear genetic material from the donor’s egg is removed and replaced with the genetic material from the biological parents’.
  • The resultant egg has the genetic material (DNA) from the parents, and the mitochondria from the female donor.
  • It is implanted in the uterus, and carried to full term to yield a baby who will be free from the mother’s mitochondrial disease.
  • This process is termed Mitochondrial Donation Treatment (MDT).

BENEFITS OF THE TECHNOLOGY:

  • The baby born is free from any mitochondrial disease.
  • Though the technology uses donor cells in some extent, the genetic material belongs to only biological parents.

Are there any side effects to the procedure?

  • It may be possible that a small amount of the maternal mitochondria with errors may get passed on during the procedure.
  • The process is more complicate.
  • Affordability on a large scale is an issue to discuss.

Way forward:

As any emerging technology faces initial challenges, this technology too is facing some regulatory and ethical challenges.

In order to develop the technology and make it more affordable to common citizens more deliberations and research should be taken on. 

Syllabus: Mains; GS III – Science and Technology

SOURCE: THE HINDU

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