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article imageGenetically Modifying Human Eggs Could Wipe out Inherited Disease

By Kevin Jess     Aug 26, 2009 in Science
A procedure that someday may allow women to avoid passing certain genetic diseases on to their children has arrived at success, with the birth of four healthy monkeys, scientists reported Wednesday.
Scientists have developed a technique to transfer genetic material from one egg cell to another which could be used to prevent the inheritance of diseases caused by faults in the DNA of mitochondria, the 'power plants' of the cell reports Nature.
Researchers at Oregon Health and Science University took an egg from a monkey, removed the DNA from the nucleus, but left the healthy mitochondria DNA in the cytoplasm.
The breakthrough could immediately eradicate rare diseases of the eye, muscle and mind and could eventually lead to cures for more common disorders with a hereditary element such as cancer, diabetes and infertility reports the Telegraph.
"Currently there are 150 known diseases caused by mutations of the mitochondrial DNA, and approximately 1 out of every 200 children is born with mitochondrial mutations," said Shoukhrat Mitalipov, Ph.D., an associate scientist in the Division of Reproductive Sciences at ONPRC.
So if a woman has a disease caused by defects in the mitochondrial DNA, the new technique might someday make it possible for her to pass on her normal DNA from the nucleus but not the flawed DNA reports CBC News.
Fathers do not pass on their mitochondria.
Scientists transplanted fifteen rhesus monkey embryos into 9 surrogate mothers; three became pregnant, one with twins, and four offspring were born. So far there have been no abnormalities in the offspring.
Two of the offspring were named Mito and Tracker after the MitoTracker dye that is routinely used to detect and image mitochondria in cells.
Oregon Health & Science University is the state's only health and research university and Oregon's only academic health center.
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