You may have seen the news stories about a baby boy born this year with 3 parent DNA. If you’re interested, it’s easy to find with a Google Search for “3 parent dna”. This form of artificial conception is legal at this time only in the UK. So the American doctor who performed this procedure went to Mexico, where rules are evidently more lax.
2 Kinds of DNA
The human egg cell from the Mom has two distinctly different kinds of DNA. The DNA in the nucleus carries all those characteristics we associate with family, like hair color, ethnicity, stature, etc. The other kind of DNA is NOT in the nucleus. This DNA is in the mitochondria organelles found in each cell, including the mother’s egg cell. The Mitochondria are responsible for converting our food into the energy each cell needs to function properly.
We ALL have some level of damaged nuclear and mitochondrial DNA. Mutations occur naturally over many generations of procreation. Over our lifetime, we eat unhealthy foods and take chemicals into our body intentionally and unintentionally. We are assaulted by various viruses and bacteria. The older we get the more faulty DNA we have.
The mother in this news story had already miscarried 6 times and had carried 2 babies to full term. But they were not healthy babies, and both died very young. They had Leigh’s Disease, which is caused by faulty mitochondrial DNA passed from the mother to her babies.
Mitochondrial DNA is passed from mother to child. The baby does NOT receive any mitochondrial DNA from the father.
So, they harvested egg cells from the mother and fertilized the eggs with the father’s sperm. Many people who cannot conceive naturally go through in vitro fertilization. So that’s not that unusual.
How it Was Done
What made this conception so ground breaking is what they did BEFORE they fertilized the egg with the father’s sperm. They literally took the Mom’s nucleus out of her egg cell and put her nucleus into another woman’s egg cell. This prevented the mother’s defective mitochondria from being passed on to her baby. And then they implanted the fertilized embryo into the mother’s womb.
The baby boy has all the genetic characteristics of his Mama and Daddy, except the donated mitochondria work the way they should.
Obviously this little boy’s health is going to be followed by the medical community – probably for his whole life. And just as certain will be a debate on whether this doctor should have performed this procedure without sanction from the medical community.
Having miscarried and having trouble even getting pregnant myself, I now suspect my own mitochondrial disease contributed to our difficulty conceiving. Let the medical community and legal authorities deal with the ethics, research methods, and legality of this 3 parent DNA conception.
I can only pray that this little boy will grow up to be a healthy young man.