In addition to £4.4 million funding from the Wellcome Trust to set up a new research centre at Newcastle University, the Government has announced that it will carry out a consultation on the research, which would ultimately need a change in the law to proceed to the clinic.
The work aims to prevent genetic diseases caused by defective mitochondria – the ‘batteries’ that power the cells in our bodies. When these fail, patients can develop devastating diseases, with symptoms often affecting tissues such as the heart, muscles and brain. At least one in 5,000 adults is affected by diseases caused in this way.
Now scientists at Newcastle University believe they have found a way to prevent these mitochondrial diseases, which are passed on by the mother to the child. The technique involves replacing the defective mitochondria in a human egg, either before or after it has been fertilised, with healthy mitochondria.