6 February 2012

Mitochondrial donation via IVF

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Melbourne IVF

Melbourne IVF supports the Australian scientific community's investigation into mitochondrial mutations to eradicate serious illness in children born from parents with mitochondrial problems, as reported in today's Herald Sun.

Mitochondrial mutations can cause multi-organ failure and fatal heart, liver and muscle conditions. Women who have 'bad' mitochondria pass this on to their children (one child a week is born in Australia with a mitochondrial condition - rare conditions but debilitating). The aim of any research in this area would be to remove defective genes and replace them with healthy DNA from a donor. 

"While this would mean we are using the genes of three parents it is important to understand that the genes that determine behaviour and appearance come from the nucleus of the cell not the mitochondria," said Melbourne IVF's Medical Director Dr Lyndon Hale. IVFAustralia is not undertaking this research. 

However, the health implications of these sorts of diseases are serious and we would welcome Australia's research community the ability to investigate further. In Australia scientists are banned from using the DNA of more than two people in any research. The federal government is reviewing the Prohibition of Human Cloning for Reproduction and Research Involving Human Embryos Act after a report was tabled in parliament last year. The report includes 264 submissions debating the validity of changing the legislation.

"Last month scientists at Britain's Newcastle University were given a grant to research the technique and we look forward to hearing of any progress," said Dr Hale, "Along with the Australian scientific community we are hopeful the government may alter the law to allow further research into embryo mitochondrial transfers."

Professor David Thorburn of the Murdoch Children's Research Institute in Melbourne also said he supported changing the laws in Australia.