Researchers in the UK have developed a method of curing a class of genetic disorders by transplanting parts of embryonic cells from one mother to another, creating the possibility of babies with three biological parents.Frankly this is very cool if it works, I'm not sure how many eggs are infertile due to bad mitochondria, but that genetic flaw does exist, and it means some women can't have children, but if this procedure can turn infertile eggs into fertile ones, it's a good thing. Wired's Brandon Kleim does have an excellent question however: does this make you a third parent? What sort of rights does the mitochondrial donor have? While this procedure is a long way off from being viable in humans, it may well very be viable sooner than you think.
Researchers at Newcastle University have transferred material from a healthy fertilized human egg into an unhealthy one, repairing the egg's genetic flaws, Nature magazine reported Wednesday.
The procedure is meant to fix problems with faulty mitochondria -- the "cellular batteries" that power human cells. By transferring the mitochondria from a female donor to another embryo, the researchers were able to turn a flawed egg into a healthy embryo.
"As mitochondria contain DNA, a child conceived this way would inherit genetic material from three parents," reports the Times of London. "The mother and father would supply 99.8 per cent of its DNA, but a small amount would come from a second woman, the mitochondrial donor."
That possibility has "profound medical and ethical implications," reports Brandon Kleim at Wired.com. "One issue involves the nature of parenthood: Would a mitochondrial donor be a parent?"
It's better to ask these questions now than discover the answers to them later in ugly legal battles, for instance. Still, score one for reproductive science.