Professor Mary Herbert, a member of the British research team who are pioneers in this field, highlights the importance of this procedure to prevent serious incurable diseases
Eugin Clinic has put its technical and human resources at the service of the University of Newcastle research team, pioneers in the development of the technique that combines the DNA of the two parents with healthy mitochondria from a donor. “Our main concern is to ensure the health of the baby. That is the goal of our fertility treatments, and we will work together with this group of researchers to avoid the transmission of serious diseases”, said Eugin’s scientific director, Dr. Rita Vassena, in a meeting with various media in Barcelona.
During the press conference that took place yesterday at Eugin Clinic, Professor Mary Herbert and Dr. Meenakshi Choudhary, both members of the scientific team from Newcastle that developed this technique, insisted that their main aim is “to prevent the transmission of diseases related to mitochondrial DNA”.
In the UK, every year some 150 women give birth to babies affected by such diseases, which are passed down from the mother. In Spain, the figure is about one hundred. “Alterations in the mitochondria, the cell’s energy reserve, cause irreversible neurological and muscle damage,” said Professor Herbert.
For a better understanding of the main technique developed by this team, we can imagine it as a kind of organ transplant at the cellular level. An egg from the mother and one from a donor is selected. The next step is to insert the nucleus from the mother’s egg into the donor’s egg. Dr. Rita Vassena pointed out that “99.9% of the mother’s DNA will be passed on to the baby,” since only 0.1% of the donor’s DNA passes to the embryo.
On February 3, the House of Commons of the United Kingdom took the first step towards authorizing the future use of this technique, which has been widely tested on primates. According to Professor Mary Herbert, “it is a great opportunity to reduce the suffering of those afflicted with these diseases”.