Mitochondrial Replacement Therapy: Researcher Claims World's First Baby With 'Three-Parent' DNA Is Healthy

By Olivia Etienne, Parent Herald April 10, 08:50 pm
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A baby boy who had a donated DNA to treat mother's mitochondrial defect has been reported to be thriving, according to researcher Dr. John Zhang and team.
(Photo : Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

The world's first "three-parent baby" passed health examinations. Recent reports claimed the baby is healthy, a leading endocrinologist and infertility specialist based in Manhattan, New York said.

Dr. John Zhang, CEO of New Hope Fertility Clinic and pioneer of the cutting-edge research, recently released a new report published in Reproductive BioMedicine Online journal. The specialist conducted a procedure called mitochondrial replacement therapy where three DNAs were used to create an egg cell free from mitochondrial diseases, as per NPR.

Zhang and the team worked on a case last fall, focusing on a couple whose female half carried the genetic disease. The pair had two children who died of Leigh syndrome, a common mitochondrial disease that ends life before three years of age.

The researchers seemed to address impending scientific and ethical questions, yet, the queries did not end there as more questions arose. The journal editors admitted in the report that Zhang's research still has "weaknesses and limitations in a number of areas."

The procedure was done in Mexico, where mitochondrial replacement therapy is not banned. Critics, however, said it could be the weakest point in Zhang's research as the techniques were done without the supervision of United States Food and Drug Association can possibly be problematic.

A few of the other concerns were about the informed consent, full risks of the procedure, and the child's overall and long-term health. The report further said that the parents did not agree to have their son regularly checked until he ages, hence, opening questions of the procedure's long-term health impact.

Leigh disease is one of the 200 known mitochondrial diseases and over 20 years ago, treatment for these diseases--like mitochondrial replacement therapy--has been considered a taboo everywhere else in the world. But Akron Children's Hospital neurology director Dr. Bruce Cowen says the procedure should not be taken into bad light as an act "messing with God."

"We're not talking about manipulating genes," Cowen told PBS Newshour. "We're talking about a fertility technique that replaces bad mitochondria with good mitochondria."

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