A controversial new in-vitro fertilization technique has allowed the birth of a baby boy with genetic information from three parents. This procedure is called mitrochondrial transfer, and it was created to prevent women with certain genetic mutations – those carried by a cell’s mitochondria – from passing along diseases to their children. This 3 parent baby was born to a Jordanian couple who had previously lost two children and suffered four miscarriages due to Leigh syndrome, which is a fatal disorder that affects a developing nervous system. The couple sought the help of an American fertility specialist, Dr. John Zhang.
In a mitochondrial transfer, the nucleus is taken from a woman’s egg and inserted into the egg of a healthy donor that has had its own nucleus removed. The resulting egg contains the donor’s mitochondria but genetic information from the mother. That egg was then fertilized with sperm from the father. The resulting embryo gets about 99.9% of its DNA from its mother and father, and the remaining tiny amount from the donor mitochondria.
The baby boy is now 6 months old and healthy, but his birth has drawn ire in the United States, where mitochondria transfer is banned due to fears of genetic abnormalities. Dr. John Zhang performed the procedure in Mexico, where no such ban exists. To learn more about the procedure, visit Forbes.com.