The UK is leading the way.

Embryologist looking through microscope
Klinikk Hausken

February 4, 2015

Embryologist looking through microscope

On Tuesday, 3 February came the news that the lower house in the UK decided to legalise a new type of treatment that allows one to prevent the development of Mitochondrial Diseases.

What are Mitochondrial Diseases? These are, in some cases, very serious diseases and often cause symptoms from birth. The disease is transmitted from mother to child due to defective genes belonging to the mitochondria. The mother does not have to be ill herself because the number of mitochondria that will express the wrong genes will vary from individual to individual. Often a sick child comes entirely unexpectedly.

What are mitochondria? These are separate cell organelles found in all cells (in varying numbers). These are responsible for the cell's ATP production (energy) and are therefore absolutely essential for normal cell function.

A cell consists of a cell nucleus where one finds DNA (chromosomes with many genes). This DNA contains the recipe for all the body's proteins and is thus decisive for all our properties and how we look. Around the nucleus are the organelles that initiate production and life cycle for the cell, including the mitochondria that supply the cell with energy.

What is the new method? The couple must go through regular IVF treatment + that they need a healthy woman as a "donor" (she must also undergo stimulation and egg retrieval). When the eggs have been retrieved, the nucleus is removed from the "sick eggs" and replaced with the eggs from the healthy donor. Then normal fertilisation with the man's semen, embryo development and the return of a healthy embryo.

What has happened? One has received a fresh egg from another woman but removed the nucleus and inserted the nucleus of the woman who has eggs with mitochondrial defects. Since it is the DNA that determines all traits, this egg becomes normal and genetically similar to the mother (who was wrong in the beginning)

Fantastic! Here we see how modern biotechnology and assisted reproduction can make a difference. This is a big step forward, and I sincerely hope that the Norwegian authorities follow up.

Klinikk Hausken

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