Mitochondrial Donation Treatment – The Unique Way to Treat Fatal Diseases In-Utero

Mitochondrial Donation Treatment (MDT) is a method in which a child is conceived through in-vitro fertilization (IVF) using the genetic material of the parents and the mitochondrial material from a donor. Recently, a unique case in the United Kingdom involved the creation of a baby with deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) from three individuals. This rare IVF procedure was performed to prevent life-threatening disease transmission to the offspring.

Dr. Astha Dayal, a lead consultant in Obstetrics and Gynecology at CK Birla Hospital in Gurugram, explained that while our cells contain a nucleus with genetic material from both parents, the mitochondria are solely inherited from the mother. Mitochondria harbor their own DNA structure, which can mutate and potentially lead to severe health issues.

Dr. Ravinder Kaur Khurana, a senior consultant and head of Obstetrics & Gynecology at Metro Hospital in Faridabad, described MDT as an artificial reproductive technique (ART) aimed at replacing diseased mitochondria with healthy ones to prevent the transfer of mitochondrial diseases from the mother to the offspring. In cases where a woman has a mitochondrial DNA mutation and desires to have a child with her own genetic traits, IVF can be used to combine the mitochondrial DNA from another female donor with the nuclear DNA from the biological parents. Dr. Khurana added that further cases are likely to be handled in the future to observe the development of babies. During the prenatal stage of pregnancy, some tests are performed, and if necessary, an amniotic conical sampler procedure can be conducted to identify any inherited problems.

Dr. Dayal stated that the resulting child would possess the genetic material of the parents while inheriting mitochondrial material from the donor. However, this technique is still in the experimental phase. Previously, a pre-implantation genetic procedure was employed to remove mitochondrial diseases, but MDT represents an improved approach. Various techniques, such as maternal spindle transfer or pronuclear transfer, are often utilized in MDT, according to Dr. Dayal. While the procedure has been reported in the UK and the US, there have been no reported cases in India yet.

The technique is still in the experimental stage in this subcontinent and requires approval from IVF societies and government authorities. Also, these are novel techniques with significant social, legal, and ethical implications.

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