A baby has been born to a previously infertile couple in Ukraine using pronuclear transfer, a new type of “three-person IVF”. Robert Meadowcroft, CEO of Muscular Dystrophy UK, said: “These children are the first in the world to be born using pronuclear transfer (PNT) – a process that has been licenced for use in the UK for the HFEA-approved mitochondrial donation IVF technique. “The HFEA licence is granted on a cautious, case by case basis and is limited to parents at very high risk of having a child with a life-threatening mitochondrial disease, not for infertility. “Mitochondrial donation IVF could potentially benefit around 2,500 women in the UK, and we fully support the use of PNT, under HFEA licence, for carefully selected patients. This pioneering technique could give women with mitochondrial disease the chance to have a healthy child, without the fear of passing on this painful, debilitating and, indeed, life-threatening conditions.
“Families have waited patiently through years of thorough ethical, safety and public reviews, which have been necessary. The UK is recognised as having a strong regulatory framework in place through the HFEA and we think it is important to ensure eligible women have the option to access this treatment in specialist clinics, under the care of consultants who have the necessary expertise and experience.”
Dr Yakoub Khalaf, Director of the Assisted Conception Unit & Centre for Pre-implantation Genetic Diagnosis, King’s College London, said:
“My initial thought is that mitochondrial donation to prevent serious genetic disease is used to reduce serious risk whereas mitochondrial donation as a fertility treatment aid without rigorous scientific assessment could potentially introduce risk. Caution and safety assessment is urged before widespread use of this technology.”
Dr Jane Stewart, Secretary of the British Fertility Society (BFS) and Consultant in Reproductive Medicine, said:
“Pronuclear Transfer for mitochondrial disease involves fertilising the mother’s egg and then transferring the nuclear DNA to the fertilised donor egg containing healthy mitochondria in a highly controlled fashion, from which the original nuclear DNA has been removed. The healthy fertilised egg is then implanted into the mother’s uterus.
“This case in the Ukraine is unrelated to the work undertaken in the UK for the treatment for couples with mitochondrial disease. There is little or no evidence to support the use of mitochondrial transfer to improve egg or embryo quality or reverse egg ageing. There is certainly not enough research evidence available to justify its use in the clinical setting for improving IVF outcomes.”
Sarah Norcross, Director of the Progress Educational Trust, said:
‘If this child appears healthy then that is good news, but we should be sceptical about the merits of mitochondrial donation when it is used as an unorthodox fertility treatment technique. The UK has seen some very thorough reports on the safety and efficacy of mitochondrial donation, but these assessed risk only in relation to patients wishing to avoid transmitting mitochondrial disease to their children. And even then, it was thought prudent to permit the techniques only for judiciously selected patients.’
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