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article imageJapanese scientists fertilize human eggs with two biological moms

By Heidi Lowry     Nov 18, 2009 in Science
The possibility of 3-parent babies grows nearer as researchers use eggs from younger women to repair damages in older women's eggs, improving their chances of fertility.
Though no babies have been born yet through this procedure, a team of Japanese doctors at St. Mother Hospital in Kitakyushu, Japan, have fertilized eggs with two biological mothers to create an early-stage embryo. They began with 31 eggs and seven of them successfully developed into viable embryos after being injected with sperm in a test tube.
"If we could transfer these constructed new embryos, I believe the success rate would be high," Atsushi Tanaka, one of the researchers, told the New Scientist, a magazine that examines science and its effects on culture, adding that 98 percent of an embryo's DNA comes from the nucleus.
In-vitro fertilization is more difficult for older women because their eggs have more damages in the cytoplasm, which surrounds the egg's nucleus. The procedure fixes abnormalities by injecting the cytoplasm of younger eggs into older eggs, repairing the problems. Chances of fertilization increased from 3 percent to 28 percent when the DNA from two women were combined, according to Tanaka's research.
Tanaka now plans to transfer these fertilized embryos into women with help from scientists in the United States and Spain.
Critics of the research say that it is one step closer to hybrid or genetically modified children. Tanaka claims that eggs fertilized using this method can decrease the child's likelihood of having a genetic illness. Britain, which outlaws the genetic modification of human eggs under the Human Fertilization and Embryology Act, will relax the rules outlined in this law if the procedure proves to provide health benefits.
More about Infertility, Three parent babies, Genetics
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