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Biotech Science

Three Parents Contribute to Experimental Human Embryo 136

Posted by Zonk
from the welcome-to-transhuman-space dept.
gihan_ripper writes "It sounds like the storyline from a cheesy film, but a human embryo has been created using the genetic material from one man and two women. A team from Newcastle University, England, developed the technique in the hope that it could be used to prevent diseases caused by faulty mitochondria. Their experiment started with two ingredients: first, a left over (and 'severely abnormal') embryo from an IVF treatment; second, a donor egg from another woman. The donor egg has all but the mitochondrial DNA removed, then a nucleus from the embryo is inserted into the egg. Effectively, this results in a mitochondria transplant. 'While any baby born through this method would have genetic elements from three people, the nuclear DNA that influences appearance and other characteristics would not come from the woman providing the donor egg. However, the team only have permission to carry out the lab experiments and as yet this would not be allowed to be offered as a treatment.'"
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Three Parents Contribute to Experimental Human Embryo

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  • by show me altoids (1183399) * on Tuesday February 05, 2008 @11:44AM (#22307126)
    Two chicks at once!
  • Poor kid. (Score:5, Funny)

    by Rob T Firefly (844560) on Tuesday February 05, 2008 @11:47AM (#22307160) Homepage Journal
    There's a kid who's going to spend their whole life dreading Mother's Day.
    • by notnAP (846325) on Tuesday February 05, 2008 @12:30PM (#22307786)
      I can see it now...

      Teacher: Timmy, you've put the apostrophe in the wrong place again... It's Mother's Day, not Mothers' Day...

      Timmy: But Miss Jones...



      Or how about...

      Timmy: Mr. Therapist, I think I have an Oedipal urge to sleep with my mothers...

      Therapist: Your libido is fine, Timmy... That'll be $150.

    • by Dusty101 (765661)
      this could have more catastrophic results, in that another Galactic President might be produced...

      Ford: [talking about Zaphod] He's my semi half brother.

      Zaphod: He shares three of the same mothers as me.
      • this could have more catastrophic results, in that another Galactic President might be produced...
        Not if we're extra careful with our contraceptives and our time machines.
  • Can and Should (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Shadow Wrought (586631) * <shadow...wrought@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday February 05, 2008 @11:48AM (#22307174) Homepage Journal
    Just because they can, should they? Maybe I'm too cynical, but in a world that's already overpopulated it seems counter-productive in the long run to figure out how to make humans the most expensive way possible. I probably need coffee and a Blank Expression [2600.com].
    • Re:Can and Should (Score:5, Insightful)

      by notorious ninja (1137913) on Tuesday February 05, 2008 @12:00PM (#22307374)
      From the article --

      "It could ensure women with genetic defects do not pass the diseases on to their children.

      The technique is intended to help women with diseases of the mitochondria - mini-organs that are found within individual cells. "
      They most definitely should. :) Sure, the world may be overpopulated, but people want to have their own children, and ensuring that they're healthy seems like a good thing to me...
      • by gardyloo (512791)

        Sure, the world may be overpopulated, but people want to have their own children, and ensuring that they're healthy seems like a good thing to me...
        Yes, but when the one leads to the impossibility of the other...
      • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

        by Antiocheian (859870)
        But I feel that they should not destroy embryos to achieve that goal. It may be perceived as OK according to the original article (``began to develop normally, but were destroyed within six days,,) but the destruction of an embryo was perceived as a murder according to a Pennsylvania judge who upheld fetal homicide law in the case of a woman who was charged with assault of a pregnant woman that resulted in the death of the 15-week-old fetus.

        but people want to have their own children, and ensuring that they're healthy seems like a good thing to me...

        It would seem good to the ancient Spartans as well, so they were t

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by unbug (1188963)

      Maybe I'm too cynical, but in a world that's already overpopulated it seems counter-productive in the long run to figure out how to make humans the most expensive way possible.
      Hmm, if you want to have fewer humans, then of course you want to make making them as expensive as possible.
    • by downix (84795)
      Well, one way to look at it is that this would allow condensing of population simpler. Many families are fine with 1-2 children. If you can make a genetic offspring from 3 parents, 2 children, rather than sustaining the number, now actually decreases as the population ages. Do this for 4-5 generation, you would have a reduction by 1/3rd.
      • So what you're saying is, it's our human duty to each have two wives? Anything else is surely just asking for our kids to be living in a world filled with disease and squalor? I think I'd like to subscribe to your newsletter, and just call me if you need any funding for getting into office.
        • by kkwst2 (992504)
          Don't you recognize the GP? It's Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. You can send your contributions to his campaign office.

          Kidding of course. If you're wishing for two wives, you're clearly not married, or haven't been for long. Hard enough to keep one happy.

          Be very careful what you wish for. (Still kidding...not really...yes I am).

          • Point taken ;) Not really planning to get married anytime soon, in fact at the moment I'm spending way too much time and money on improving my experience on Test Drive Unlimited (over £1000 so far on HDTV, steering wheel + sound rocker chair, can't see any wife being too happy with that, especially when I already have a decent enough car IRL :P )
            • by downix (84795)
              Never had anybody compare me to Mitt Romney before...

              And who says it has to be two women, with the new UK research able to have men produce eggs and women sperm?
      • by d cobalt (1230690)
        This might not be right if people who were previosly unwilling to have children for fear of how they would turn out now are able to. Not to mention that the three could consist of a couple and any third person single or otherwise. These factors might increase the rate of reproduction.
    • by Touvan (868256)

      The populations that can afford to reproduce this way are already reproducing at near zero birth rates (or negative in many cases). Birth rates seem to be decreasing in the whole world as well. I think this is fine.

      There's a bunch of stuff on wikiepedia [wikipedia.org] about it, I'm referring mostly to stuff I've read or heard recently, but can't quote (don't remember the specific sources), so take it with a grain of salt. ;-)

      • The populations that can afford to reproduce this way are already reproducing at near zero birth rates (or negative in many cases).
        Huh? Less than 0 people are being born?

        I think I know what you meant, but it certainly isn't what you wrote; there is a difference between birth rates and (net) population growth rates.
        • Less than 0 people are being born?
          What GP obviously means is that more people are being born again than being born, leading to a net negative birth rate.
    • by MrWa (144753)
      Maybe I'm too cynical, but in a world that's already overpopulated it seems counter-productive in the long run to figure out how to make humans the most expensive way possible.

      Couple of things to note...

      First: if it costs more to make humans then it could be assumed that less would be produced in the future, helping to slowdown the population growth.

      Second: is the world really overpopulated? I would agree that the population density is not evenly spread and that we are very inefficient at getting resou

  • by CRCulver (715279) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Tuesday February 05, 2008 @11:48AM (#22307184) Homepage
    It's funny to see this happening with mankind already, since science fiction has long dreamt up advanced human or alien races with triune families, e.g. the Soft Ones from Asimov's The Gods Themselves [amazon.com] , and in Larry Niven's Known Space universe it's one of the social innovations that only comes about in five hundred years or so.
    • by mea37 (1201159)
      Biologically three "parents" are involved, but I wouldn't forsee this leading to a social structure of a three-parent family. Given a case where that structure already exists (insert fundamentalist LDS joke here if you must), I could see a technique like this being adopted; but I don't see how the social structure would follow from the technique. To a certain extent, it seems like the point of many fertility-related treatments is to decouple the biology from the social family structure.
    • by dasbush (1143709)
      I was thinking more along the lines of Gattaca. Fixing faults in our DNA?
      • Just leaves you with a small wiener. Well, that's what I took from the film at least - seemed to be the main theme?
  • by jbeaupre (752124) on Tuesday February 05, 2008 @11:49AM (#22307192)
    Since mitochondria are only passed by the mother, effectively asexual reproduction of those genes, I assume there's less genetic mixing to keep it healthy (I've heard dad's does get in on rare occasions). Would combining mitochondrial DNA sources instead of replacing be of any benefit?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by snl2587 (1177409)

      Please correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought this technique was for cases in which the mitochondrial DNA of the mother was already faulty. Unless combining the DNA eliminates the faultiness, I don't think it will help. Unless you meant using the dad's?

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by jbeaupre (752124)
        You're correct, this study was replacing faulty DNA. But if it's just a segment that is faulty, why replace everything? In many cases, the mitochodria may be worthless, so complete replacement is necessary. But in some cases, having the old one there is like keeping a backup system around. One gets half the job done, the other completes it. Granted, there won't be any DNA swap, so you miss any chance of dumping bad genes over generations. But I still wonder if there could be a net benefit.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by clonan (64380)
          That doesn't really work with Mitochondria.

          Mitochondria are effecticly self contained bacteria with their own genome, rRNA, and other support structures as if they were real cells. Infact mitochondria replicate like cells inside the cytoplasm. Now they also requier some proteins that are encoded and imported from the nucleus, but they don't release anything except carbon dioxide, water and ATP.

          Even if one mitocondria can only do half of the kreb cycle while it's neighbor can do the other half, they still
          • by jbeaupre (752124)
            I should have said jobs, not job. Mitochondria do several things, not just energy http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mitochondria#Function [wikipedia.org]. So what's to stop one set from doing some and the other doing the others?
            • by clonan (64380)
              All the other "jobs" are simply side effects of the energy conversion function (calcium storage and membrane potential etc). The one exception to that is the example of ammonium degridation. This is controlled from the neculus NOT the mitochondria. If the mitochondria can't accept proteins from the nucleus then it will die. But if it can accept anything, it will accept everything with the correct targeting sequence.

              Therefore if the gene for ammonia processing is messed up in the genome, it wouldn't matt
        • by HTH NE1 (675604)

          You're correct, this study was replacing faulty DNA. But if it's just a segment that is faulty, why replace everything?
          Because it's easier to put your CPU (nucleus) into a new motherboard (cell) than to find and fix the fault in the old motherboard (mitochondrial DNA).

          It's gonna suck for those tracing maternal ancestry through mitochondrial DNA unless both women's mito-DNA become public record.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Zebraheaded (1229302)
      Mitochondrial DNA is always passed on by only the mother, this happens similarly in most metazoans. Mitochondrion present in sperm are marked with ubiquitin so that theyre destroyed once released into the zygote. As for genetic recombination being benificial...not really. Mitochondrial DNA only code for something like 35 genes. Some (like ribosomal RNA) would be completely dibilitating if defective, others not so much. Most of the proteins used in the mitochondria are actually coded in nuclear DNA, so
      • by jbeaupre (752124)
        Thanks. That's the kind of answer I was looking for.

        On one note, I thought I read recently that they discovered a very rare instance where the father's mitochondria did survive. So in addition to the mom's guaranteed contribution, there was this odd addition. Not normal, but still an interesting find.
        • by a whoabot (706122)
          I believe I've found what you are looking for here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14520651 [nih.gov]

          The first link on the (two link) list there: "A cornerstone of mitochondrial genetics, strict maternal inheritance, has been challenged recently by the study of a patient with mitochondrial myopathy due to a sporadic 2bp deletion. The mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) harboring the mutation was paternal in origin, whereas the patient's blood was identical to the maternal genotype. To determine whether this is a common phe
    • Would combining mitochondrial DNA sources instead of replacing be of any benefit?

      It limits your power from the Force to Gardening.

  • Awesome! (Score:5, Funny)

    by eln (21727) on Tuesday February 05, 2008 @11:49AM (#22307204) Homepage
    The next step is to implant the embryo into Arnold Schwarzenegger. Get ready for some madcap fun!
  • One man and two women... the American (het male) dream. Leave it to a bunch of geeks to turn it from sex into a test tube.
  • It would make for an interesting remake of "Bob and Carol, Ted and Alice."

  • Nooooooo!!! (Score:5, Funny)

    by unbug (1188963) on Tuesday February 05, 2008 @11:51AM (#22307234)
    God, I hope they aren't going to patent threesomes now!
  • by gillbates (106458) on Tuesday February 05, 2008 @11:55AM (#22307296) Homepage Journal

    If he had a million dollars?

    Two eggs at the same time...

    • I tell you what I'd do man. two chicks at the same time man.

      I think if I were a millionaire i could hook that up too, 'cause chicks dig dudes with money.

      well, not all chicks

      the type of chicks that'd double up on a dude like me would.

      You're welcome. [youtube.com]

    • by ArsonSmith (13997)
      Hmm, how can I use this for personal gain?

      "Honey, there's new research that says you can make a baby with two women and one guy. What'cha think we give it a try?"
  • IANAB (biologist) but couldn't there be another application for this:
    Say a couple want to have a child but they know they will pass on a serious genetic defect.
    The article suggests that the baby will have DNA from all three parties and says appearance and "other characteristics" will be like the 'real' mother. But maybe it could also receive the "healthy" DNA strings from the donor egg thereby not passing on the genetic malfunction?

    I don't know if this is even scientifically possible, so correct me if I'm w
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Loibisch (964797)
      from TFA:

      It could ensure women with genetic defects do not pass the diseases on to their children.
      Probably should have read it properly first :P
      Nothing to see here, move along. :)
    • The article suggests that the baby will have DNA from all three parties and says appearance and "other characteristics" will be like the 'real' mother. But maybe it could also receive the "healthy" DNA strings from the donor egg thereby not passing on the genetic malfunction?

      That is not going to work, unless the genetic defect was in the mitochondrial DNA of the original zygote. Mitochondria are organelles (kind of like organs for a single cell) that have their own DNA (some suspect that they might actuall

      • Mitochondria are organelles (kind of like organs for a single cell) that have their own DNA (some suspect that they might actually once have been separate life forms that sort of formed a permanent symbiosis with the rest of the cell).

        No, you're thinking of midichlorians [wikipedia.org]. :-)

    • Lezzers who both want to be the genetic mother.
  • Which joke-reference to make, Serpentor, or Kaaaaahn...

  • This reminds me of the extra-dimentional aliens in Isaac Asimov's novel The Gods Themselves [wikipedia.org]:

    The second part takes place in the parallel universe. This part is remarkable because Asimov rarely describes aliens, preferring tales of humans and robots, but this time he goes into considerable detail.

    His aliens have three "semi-mature" sexes (known, for their presumably amorphous form, as soft ones) with fixed roles for each sex, and one "mature" form, (known as hard ones).

    Rationals - Called "lefts", rationals ar

    • His aliens have three "semi-mature" sexes (known, for their presumably amorphous form, as soft ones) with fixed roles for each sex, and one "mature" form, (known as hard ones).
      I'm sorry, but that's just too easy so I'm not even gonna make an effort. Asimov rocks though :p Poem by Asimov on cloning [commonplacebook.com]
    • The parent post contains a spoiler for this excellent book; don't read the parent post if you haven't already read the book named in the title!!!
  • To be clear, I'm not one of these "we must not play God, we're messing around with things we don't understand" types. At the same time, I do wonder if we understand the principles with which we're working as well as the write-up suggests. On the other hand, that is why we run experiments...

    The write-up seems to carry some assumptions from our current model of how DNA and genetic inheritance works. "the nuclear DNA that influences appearance and other characteristics would not come from the woman providin
    • You can actually buy cell lines and even mouse strains that have defective mitochondria. With these lines you can give them a specific chemical and ALL the mitochondria will be killed. You can then add a different mitochondrial line which will replicate and save the cell...allowing you to study the altered metabolism.

      Genetic researchers "know" why cloned animals don't necessarily look alike. A lot of the features we tune in on (spots and other colorations) are based on an absolutly random gene deactivati
    • by Intron (870560)
      Identical twins have the same DNA but different fingerprints. Some of development is due to random processes. After all, human DNA is only about 10^10 bits and much of it is non-coding. Hmmm, there's a word for that...
  • The child's features should still be similar to the parents not contributing the mitochondria, but how about the child's size?

    Would the growth of certain features be influence by the mitochondria?
    • Not really the growth of features...the function of them, yes. Mitochondrial diseases usually cause the malfunction of the eyes, ears, liver, heart, etc...disorders where the "problem" is sequestered to a certain tissue. Though, there can be broader disorders such as a general intolerance to physical exertion.
  • but a human embryo has been created using the genetic material from one man and two women.

    I know its election day in many states, but please, enough talk about the Clintons and their foibles.
         
  • The usual row errupted a couple days ago when the Pope was quoted as saying that (I'm paraphrasing) "some uses of biotechnology are incompatible with and diminish human dignity." Like having 3 genetic parents?

    On a lighter note, if there's a divorce (a 3-way divorce?) none of them will pay child support.
  • Mitochondrial dna already has little variation between individuals. It is always inherited from your mom and has no bearing on any physical/mental traits unless it's damaged.
    • Misleading. Mitochondrial DNA varies quite a lot between individuals. This is due to its high mutation rate due to a lack of "error-checking" like in nuclear DNA. You may have inhereted it from your mom, but certain samples of yours (all your mitochondria will not have the exact same genome) will be different than hers. Also, comparing your mitochondrial DNA to mine, and then our nuclear DNA, our mitochondrial DNA would be far more dissimilar.
    • Also, what counts as "functioning?"

      For instance, say you had a slightly less efficient protein that tended to drop things (high energy protons and electrons) before they were completly used slightly more requently than "normal." These dropped high energy particles will typically just generate extra heat or escape into the cell.

      SOOO...you could eat more without gaining weight...

      OR....
      They would be dropped and escape the mitochondria and react with the cell causing oxidative stress leading to signs of aging
  • I recall that they have been planning this for a while. Check out http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn6547-scientists-seek-to-create-threeparent-babies.html [newscientist.com]. Funny enough, this was banned in the US, though this is a great way to treat mitochondrial disorders while still keeping the kid from being "the milk-mans" baby....err "milk-womans"?
  • something we all dream of and science come together
  • Is this legal? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Bob-taro (996889) on Tuesday February 05, 2008 @01:22PM (#22308634)

    The embryos then began to develop normally, but were destroyed within six days.

    Okay, so apparently as part of an experiment, just to see if it could be done, they fertilized human eggs, let the embryos develop for a few days, then killed them. Doesn't that bother ANYONE? Did I read that wrong? It sounds like they're creating people for experiments just to kill them! Yeah, I know a lot of you don't believe an embryo is a person, but I'm mainly posting for those who share my view but might have missed that aspect of the story.

    • Of course it's legal (Score:3, Informative)

      by mbessey (304651)
      Not that this will necessarily make you feel any better about the ethics of the situation, but the embryo they used was a reject from in-vitro fertilization. It was going to be destroyed anyway, regardless of whether the experiment was performed. It's a fact that the majority of embryos produced for IVF are never brought to term.
    • by couchslug (175151)
      "Doesn't that bother ANYONE?"

      Not I. I don't consider that any life form has intrinsic value. I doubt nature does either.
  • This short article leaves out the interesting issue of maternal RNA loading. Part of the reason the egg is so large is due to the actual production of the egg itself. Whereas sperm cells divide from a stem cell into 2 pre-sperm, then 4 sperm cells, a stem cell divides into 2 then 4 daughter cells. Only 1 of these cells becomes the egg, the other 3 are discarded. However, the other 3 pump their cytoplasm into the egg before being discarded, making the egg much larger. This transfer loads the egg with to
  • I can claim to want a threesome for "pro-creational" reasons?
  • ...but I predicted (and hoped for) this exact idea several years ago, when I was 1/3 of an FFM triad.

    Regardless of the inevitable ethical outcry and the fact that it's no longer directly relevant to my current relationship situation, I think that this a very cool technology. It'd be great if it was developed to the point that viable, healthy offspring could be produced, though I doubt that mainstream society is ready for such things yet.

  • KHAAAAAAANNNN!
  • It's so tiresome seeing "whatcouldpossiblygowrong" attached to every science headline. It's an ignorant and cowardly attitude. What is this, a Fox TV show?

    Incidentally, plants combine genetic material from more than two parents all the time, so doing this in an animal species is a very interesting thing. It's certainly possible and could have great advantages.
  • There was a tag listed for this article: menageatrois.


    A "menage a trois" is literally a "household of three" or a "family of three."

    The only rude meaning in it is created when Americans (incorrectly) think this is French for a threesome. "Menage a trois" as a idiomatic term is purely American-made- it means absoltely nothing of the sort anywhere else.

Don't steal; thou'lt never thus compete successfully in business. Cheat. -- Ambrose Bierce

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