It has been told that we get half our genes from father and the other half from mother. But what if it is not as accurate as we once thought. In fact, researchers have discovered that the mother’s genes may actually influence your genetic makeup more than the father.
Mitochondria also known as “powerhouse of the cell” but plays a major role in fertilization. Sometimes, in the case of genetic diseases, its function can be deadly. But thanks to pioneer physician John Zhang and his team, families with a known history of genetic diseases might have the opportunity for raising a healthy child through the conception of a 3-parent-baby.
Zhang and his team have used mitochondrial replacement therapy (MRT) to help a 36-year-old woman to conceive a child. The woman was suffering from Leigh syndrome and already had four pregnancy losses. Leigh syndrome is a severe neurobiological disorder which impairs the central nervous system and often leads to death several years later.
20% of all Leigh syndrome cases are linked to mitochondrial inheritance from the mother. Due to this Zhang’s method of collecting donor immature egg cells (from the “third” person) is proving to be an effective gene therapy.
Zhang’s team collected 28 healthy donor immature egg cells and verified if the mitochondrial DNA was safe from mutations. A doctor collected 29 eggs from the mother, but only five were suitable for the procedure.
The team transferred the mother’s genome into a donated egg with healthy mitochondria by using electrofusion technique. The hybrid egg was then fertilized by the father’s sperm and transferred to the mother’s womb.
This technique proved successful with the birth of a healthy male child in 2016. While 25 percent of the mother’s total mitochondria was affected by Leigh syndrome, the disease affected only two to nine percent of the child’s mitochondria.
In comparison to the U.K, U.S. has a difficult history with this technique. The FDA greenlighted MRT with male embryos only. It is because any family history of mitochondrial disease would end with the male, as he cannot pass on harmful mitochondrial DNA to any of his potential offspring.
While many think that MRT will evolve into eugenics and designer babies, it is obvious that without MRT, Zhang’s patient may have never had her little boy.