Surrogacy in India

UK sees success in Mitochondrial Replacement Therapy


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Mitochondrial Replacement Therapy (MRT)

Mains level: Various ARTs


Central Idea

  • The birth of a baby using three persons’ DNA using Mitochondrial Replacement Therapy (MRT) in the UK has generated significant attention and discussion.
  • The baby has three parents, with the mitochondria coming from a donor in addition to the genetic material from the biological parents.
  • This pioneering technology was employed to prevent the baby from inheriting the mother’s mitochondrial disease.

What is Mitochondria?

Structure Membrane-bound organelles with outer and inner membranes
Energy Production Generate ATP through cellular respiration and oxidative phosphorylation
ATP Production Breakdown of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins in the inner membrane
DNA and Replication Possess their own circular DNA (mtDNA) and can replicate independently
Other Functions Involved in calcium signalling, apoptosis, and synthesis of molecules
Inheritance Maternally inherited during fertilization
Evolutionary Origin Arise from a symbiotic relationship with bacteria-like organisms
Disorders Mutations or dysfunction can cause mitochondrial diseases


  • Certain defects in mitochondria can lead to mitochondrial diseases, impacting the function of energy-hungry tissues in various organs.
  • Mitochondrial diseases have no cure but can be treated, and their incidence is estimated to be one in 5,000 people.
  • In this case, the mother had a mitochondrial disease that she wanted to avoid passing on to her baby, but she did not want to use a donor egg.

What is Mitochondrial Replacement Therapy (MRT)?

  • MRT is a medical technique used to prevent the transmission of certain mitochondrial diseases from a mother to her child.
  • It involves replacing faulty mitochondria in an egg or embryo with healthy mitochondria from a donor.
  • The procedure is typically performed using in vitro fertilization (IVF) techniques.
  • The nucleus, containing the majority of the genetic material, is transferred from the intended parents’ egg or embryo to a donor egg or embryo with healthy mitochondria.
  • The resulting embryo, with nuclear DNA from the intended parents and healthy mitochondria from the donor, is then implanted into the mother’s uterus for gestation.

How does it work?

  • The father’s sperm fertilizes the eggs from the biological mother and a female donor with healthy mitochondria.
  • The genetic material from the donor’s egg is replaced with that of the biological parents, resulting in an egg with the parents’ DNA and the donor’s mitochondria.
  • This modified egg is then implanted into the mother’s uterus and carried to full term, resulting in a baby free from the mother’s mitochondrial disease.

Uses of MRT

  • Prevention of Mitochondrial Diseases: MRT helps prevent the transmission of certain mitochondrial diseases from mothers to their children.
  • Family Planning: It enables individuals or couples with mitochondrial DNA mutations to have genetically related children without the risk of disease inheritance.
  • Improved Health: MRT can significantly improve the overall health and well-being of individuals by avoiding debilitating mitochondrial diseases.
  • Ethical Considerations: It provides an alternative to traditional donor egg options, allowing intended parents to have a child with their own genetic material while avoiding disease transmission.
  • Scientific Advancements: MRT contributes to scientific research and advancements in assisted reproductive technologies, expanding our understanding of mitochondrial biology and potential treatment options for mitochondrial disorders.

Recent advancements in UK

  • The baby primarily carries DNA from its biological parents and a small percentage from the donor whose mitochondria was used during fertilization.

Scientific process

  • Mitochondrial diseases are inherited from the mother, prompting research to find ways to protect infants from inheriting these diseases.
  • The Newcastle Fertility Clinic developed an advanced in vitro fertilization technique known as Mitochondrial Donation Treatment (MDT).

Legal Facilitation of MDT

  • The UK government amended the law in 2015 to allow for mitochondrial replacement therapy (MRT) or MDT.
  • The Newcastle Fertility Centre became the first center to obtain a license to perform the procedure, and the first cases were approved in 2018.

Issues with MRT

  • Transfer of Defective Mitochondria: There is a minimal risk of transferring small amounts of defective mitochondria along with healthy ones during the procedure.
  • Long-Term Safety: The long-term safety of MRT is still being studied, and ongoing monitoring is necessary to assess any potential risks or effects.
  • Ethical and Social Concerns: MRT raises ethical and social considerations related to the creation and destruction of embryos, use of donor gametes, and altering the germline.
  • Limited Availability: MRT is a highly regulated procedure, and its availability may be limited to specific countries or cases approved by regulatory bodies.
  • Emotional and Psychological Impact: Undergoing MRT involves emotional implications and decision-making, which can have an impact on individuals and couples involved.



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