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regulators mull safety concerns over three party ivf

MitochondriaERScannMitochondria are cellular organelles responsible for producing energy.  They contain a circular piece of DNA, and are inherited only from the mother.  Some people have diseases of the mitochondria.  For this reason, three-party IVF has been proposed where the intended parents use an egg (oocyte), minus the nucleus, from another woman to avoid transferring mitochondrial diseases.  The procedure is termed mitochondrial replacement (MR).

Some research in animals suggested the nuclear and mitochondrial DNA communicate, and this communication is paring specific, and important for proper gene expression.  Furthermore, evolutionary theory predicts that mismatching between nuclear and mitochondrial DNA can have serious implications for the health of any offspring produced using MR.

Health authorities in the United Kingdom are researching the safety of this practice in human IVF.  British parliament is scheduled to investigate and make a ruling later this year.  In the United States, the FDA held a hearing on the matter in March 2014, and is expected to issue some guidance in the near future.

A recent story on this topic can be found in The Guardian.