“Three-Parent” Baby has Been Born in Greece, Making Medical History

Researchers at the Institute of Life in Athens, Greece, announced April 9 that medical history had been made with the birth of a healthy baby boy to a 32-year-old woman who had experienced several failed cycles of in-vitro fertilization (IVF). The boy was born with DNA from three different parents.

The boy, who weighed 6 pounds at birth, was born using a technique called maternal spindle transfer. The process involves removing the grouped-together DNA from a mother’s egg and placing it inside a donor egg from another woman, which has had its DNA removed. The donor’s egg with the mother’s genes is then fertilized and develops into an embryo that is transferred for pregnancy. This solves the problem of something inside the mother’s egg preventing a viable embryo from forming.

Mitochondria might have been a factor in the mother’s inability to conceive, though the woman was not diagnosed with any mitochondrial conditions. Mitochondria are found in every human cell and lie outside of the nuclear DNA that contains a cell’s genes. Maternal spindle transfer replaces the mother’s faulty mitochondria with the donor’s, making it possible for the egg to be fertilized and turn into an embryo.

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In a statement, Dr. Panagiotis Psathas, president of the Institute, said:

“We are now in a position to make it possible for women with multiple for women with multiple IVF failures or rare mitochondrial genetic diseases to have a healthy child.”

Mitochondria powers cells, including the copying and dividing of DNA. Recent research shows they also play a vital role in reproduction, particularly helping eggs from older women to get fertilized, develop into a healthy embryo, and eventually a newborn.

And although the baby was born with genetic material from 3 parents, he will mostly have DNA from his biological parents.

There have been other similar births, but this is the first time that a baby has been born to a mother without mitochondrial disease. However, researchers say the case supports the theory that mitochondria may play a role in fertility treatments more broadly in women, even if they don’t suffer from mitochondrial conditions.

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While the procedure offers hope to infertile women, it is not without ethical concerns. It was banned in the U.S. in 2015 over concerns that it is a form of genetic mutation. So, when a baby was born in 2016 with the help of a team from the New Hope Fertility Center in New York, the baby boy was born in Mexico. [2]

A three-parent baby was also born in Ukraine in 2017 following 15 years of failed attempts.

Sources:

[1] Time

[2] Insider