Could your donated eggs be used in new '3-person' IVF technique in future?

A new IVF technique which could prevent a range of inherited diseases has been backed by the Government – meaning the UK could become the first country in the world to allow a ‘3-parent’ method of helping someone have a family.

The new technique – for which the Government is developing regulations - stops mitochondrial disease from being passed onto babies from their mothers by using donated eggs.

Mitochondrial disease is a very rare but incurable disease and causes a range of conditions including fatal heart problems and brain disorders. The disease – which can only be inherited from the mother - is caused by faulty mitochondrial DNA. Mitochondria is found in every cell in the body and provides the energy cells need to function.

The new, so-called ‘3-parent’ technique involves replacing the faulty mitochondrial DNA within the mother’s egg, with that of a donor egg. The mitochondrial DNA of the donor egg would only make up a very tiny percentage of genes in the resulting embryo. It would have the genes of both parents, but only the mitochondrial DNA of the donor, ensuring no faulty DNA is passed down from the mother to the child.

Scientists have developed different methods to do this, including swapping DNA between the fertilised egg of the mother and that of the donor, either before or after fertilisation.

The technique means that the disease would no longer be passed on to any babies born from an affected mother, and would also prevent future generations from developing the disease.

It’s hoped that the new technique could be offered within a couple of years, with regulations set to be debated in Parliament in 2014.  So there is a possibility that in future, donated eggs could be used to help people have children free from mitochondrial disease. But due to the nature of the technique, it is unlikely to be a ‘routine’ procedure offered by IVF clinics.

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