Utilizing a controversial technique, pioneering scientist John Zhang and his team from New Hope Fertility Center recently helped a couple have a baby with the genetic assistance of a third party, according to New Scientist. While this technique has only been approved in the UK, the birth of this child took place in Mexico to Jordanian parents. The results were a baby boy, born on April 6 of this year.
The boy's mother carries genes for Leigh syndrome, a rare genetic neurometabolic disorder that is characterized by the degeneration of the central nervous system. This mutation is contained in the mitochondrial DNA, which is passed down on the maternal line.
Zhang used a process spindle transfer. The nucleus from one of the mother's eggs was removed and inserted into the egg of a donor, which had had its own nucleus removed. This ensured the egg contained the nuclear DNA of the mother and the healthy mitochondrial DNA of the donor. The egg was fertilized with the father's sperm, and implanted in the mother's womb to develop normally.
While the baby's mitochondrial DNA does show that he carries the mutation for Leigh syndrome, it is a very small amount (only about 1%), which doctors hope is too small to actually produce symptoms, according to IFLScience.com. Thery also report that the fact that this baby is male is an advantage in this case, "as it means he won't pass on this mitochondrial DNA to any children he may have in the future."
Although the moral and ethical implications of this procedure are controversial, Zhang is adamant that he made the right choice, New Scientist reports. "To save lives is the ethical thing to do," he said.