Early Tuesday morning, The Institute of Life in Athens, Greece declared that a baby was born through, “embryotools implementation of Maternal Spindle Transfer in a woman suffering from multiple IVF failures.”
In layman’s terms, a healthy baby boy was born after being created using the genetic material of three different people. The six-pound baby boy was born to a 32-year old woman who had previously attempted four cycles of IVF with no success.
Scientists intervened using a process called Maternal Spindle Transfer to try and help the woman achieve conception. Maternal Spindle Transfer occurs by emptying a donor egg of its DNA, and then injecting the egg with the woman’s DNA (retrieved from one of her own eggs). Once the woman’s DNA is in the donor egg, it’s then fertilized. When an embryo is successfully established, the egg is transferred to the woman so that she can complete the pregnancy.
Maternal Spindle Transfer is useful when there is something wrong with the mother’s eggs. Time states that, “one of those factors is mitochondria, which are found in every human cell and lie outside of the nuclear DNA that contains a cell’s genes. With Maternal Spindle Transfer, the donor’s mitochondria, along with other factors in the egg, presumably make it possible for the egg to then be fertilized and develop into an embryo.” Mitochondria possess DNA that in this procedure remains inside the donor egg even after the nuclear DNA has been removed. So, although the egg is emptied of its DNA prior to the insertion of the new mother’s DNA, the mitochondrial DNA in the donor egg remains. When the egg is fertilized, it will possess DNA from the donor, mother, and father.
The fact that the process created a healthy baby suggests to researchers that mitochondria may play an important role in reproduction. Although researchers are far away from having this procedure readily available in fertility clinics, scientists are hopeful that it will shed new light on why some women’s eggs work and why some don’t. This will be in an effort to fix those that don’t work properly.
Researchers involved in the studying of Maternal Spindle Transfer are still unsure if the three sets of genetic material will impact the child in some way; whether in early development or later in life. The United Staes has banned such procedures because, according to Time, “they involve altering the genetic makeup of an embryo from the conventional combination of egg and sperm.”
Whether or not this procedure will be available in the U.S. at some point is still unclear. But what’s clear is that some women may travel to countries that offer it- if it means giving them a chance at motherhood.