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Biotech Medicine

UK Scientists Create a Three-Parent Embryo 201

Posted by kdawson
from the like-changing-the-battery dept.
Troll-Under-D'Bridge writes "The BBC reports that British scientists have manufactured embryos containing genetic material from a man and two women. Under the procedure developed by scientists from Newcastle University, the nuclei from a father's sperm and a mother's egg are transferred into a second woman's egg 'from which the nucleus had been removed, but which retained its mitochondria.' The research, which may 'help mothers with rare genetic disorders have healthy children,' used embryos left over from in-vitro fertilization treatment."
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UK Scientists Create a Three-Parent Embryo

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  • by StefanJ (88986) on Friday April 16, 2010 @12:12PM (#31873012) Homepage Journal

    So Heather REALLY HAS two mommies!

  • by WrongSizeGlass (838941) on Friday April 16, 2010 @12:14PM (#31873032)
    Scientists have found a way to ruin the meaning of "threesome". Is this the true cost of progress?
  • One of the 'mothers' only contributes mitochondrial DNA, which does not affect any characteristics to the offspring.

    • by vell0cet (1055494) on Friday April 16, 2010 @12:35PM (#31873330)
      Depends on what you mean by "characteristics." At the very base level, it contributes to every other cell in the offspring's body (as the mitochondria themselves are replicated during a separate mitosis stage within the "host" cell).

      At another level, the mitochondria set the rate at which the cell creates energy which directly affects the ability of the cell to regenerate, reproduce and function which can itself cause differences in gene expression.
      • by smellsofbikes (890263) on Friday April 16, 2010 @01:14PM (#31873846) Journal
        Not only that, but since the mitochondrial DNA only codes for a small amount of the respiration chain -- cytochrome C oxidase, ATP synthase, and some of the core proteins of the NADH reductase complex, in most eukaryotic cells -- while the nuclear DNA codes for much of the rest of the proteins in the respiration chain, you need to have an excellent match between proteins that come from two different chunks of DNA. There's no guarantee that'll happen, and there's evidence that one of the reasons cloning has such a poor success rate and so many cloned animals die young of strange damage, is precisely because of poor matching between mitochondrial and nuclear dna products, leading to oxidative damage throughout the cell and early cell death because of leakage from the poorly-functioning respiration chain.
        • by graft (556969)

          Not only that, but since the mitochondrial DNA only codes for a small amount of the respiration chain -- cytochrome C oxidase, ATP synthase, and some of the core proteins of the NADH reductase complex, in most eukaryotic cells -- while the nuclear DNA codes for much of the rest of the proteins in the respiration chain, you need to have an excellent match between proteins that come from two different chunks of DNA. There's no guarantee that'll happen, and there's evidence that one of the reasons cloning has such a poor success rate and so many cloned animals die young of strange damage, is precisely because of poor matching between mitochondrial and nuclear dna products, leading to oxidative damage throughout the cell and early cell death because of leakage from the poorly-functioning respiration chain.

          Man, once our genetic engineering is good enough, one of the first things we should do is migrate those mtDNA genes into the nucleus, already, and get them working under proper sexual reproduction/selection. Clean that shit up.

          • Man, once our genetic engineering is good enough, one of the first things we should do is migrate those mtDNA genes into the nucleus, already, and get them working under proper sexual reproduction/selection. Clean that shit up.

            Bad idea. Somewhere between 80 and 99.5% of the mitochondrial DNA has already migrated into the nucleus (comparing to bacteria that are somewhat similar to what we think mitochondria were, like Rickettsia sp.) because when an individual mitochondrion dies, it breaks apart and its DNA is floating around where it can easily be picked up.

            Since there are significant differences between retained mtDNA in different animal and plant species, but there are *always* (as far as I or apparently anyone else knows)

        • Very interesting. If the problem were mismatch between mitochondrial and nuclear products, wouldn't we expect much more problems with regular births considering situations where the offspring may get a lot of nuclear dna from the father? Especially in genetically diverse couples?

          • by bark (582535)

            In any human, mitochondria ONLY comes from the mother. The mitochondria in the sperm are clustered at the base of the flagella and are used to provide energy for swimming. After insemination, the father's mitochondria are "discarded", left outside of the egg. There is also no worry that the father's mitochondria is "too different". So in current human biology, the mother's mitochondria is extremely important, as any defects/dna damage will be inherited by the offspring.

            The father's mitochondria decides how

        • by wowbagger (69688)

          Since you seem to have some understanding beyond "teh Slahsbot" level:

          When one fine day we get to a point where we can do serious gengineering, would it make sense to finish what started a long time ago and move the genes for producing mitochondria into the nuclear DNA, and let the mitochondria become just another organelle?

          • See above response to graft: there's a reason that after a billion years, the vast majority of mtDNA has migrated to the nucleus but the same few genes are retained in mitochondria across at least dozens of species of eukaryotes, from amoebas, through trees, to humans. If we are going to do genetic engineering on mitochondria, that isn't what we need to be doing to them. We need to be making mitochondria increasingly leakproof, increasingly efficient, and much more numerous. Then we should see some drama
    • I would say the mitochondria definitely affect the characteristics of the offspring. Mitochondria are the place where much of the metabolic pathways are involved.

      I believe the whole point of this procedure was for would-be mothers who suffer from mitochondrial-related disorders to be able to bear children with their own chromosomal DNA but having healthy mitochondrial DNA (MtDNA) (and thus healthy mitochondria).

      Metabolism is a very big player in an organism's characteristics.

    • I think I'd classify "aerobic respiration" as a "characteristic"....
  • by GNUALMAFUERTE (697061) <.almafuerte. .at. .gmail.com.> on Friday April 16, 2010 @12:27PM (#31873240)

    A very scientific, high tech, in vitro ménage à trois.

  • Or... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Theuberelite (1786666) on Friday April 16, 2010 @12:45PM (#31873458)
    Or you could just adopt. Wouldn't be much different would it? You're not having the baby yourself, and you're getting it out of another man's sperm and another woman's egg. The only difference is your mitochondria is present. All I can see it doing is allowing for there to be a relation between the parent and the child genetically, but how much is this going to change things? On top of that, I'm going to guess that this process will be really expensive, so who would want to pay for that sort of thing? I just can't see the point.
  • They called their earlier attempts "Menage e Trois"
  • by Naatach (574111) on Friday April 16, 2010 @12:48PM (#31873498)
    As a parent who has gone through 7 years of infertility, I can say that I find religious objections to new fertility treatments unconscionable. The Church's belief that people who suffer from infertility should "accept the will of god" to be disgusting and akin to telling a cancer patient that they should do the same. The grief suffered by a couple with infertility diseases is as great of that of someone dying of a terminal illness. Imagine if someone stormed into your house, kidnapped your children, and you are powerless to do anything about it. Infertility evokes the same kind of emotions. Forbidding treatment on religious grounds adds insult to injury. In the end, we resolved our infertility by adopting.
    • by Culture20 (968837)

      As a parent who has gone through 7 years of infertility, I can say that I find religious objections to new fertility treatments unconscionable. The Church's belief that people who suffer from infertility should "accept the will of god" to be disgusting and akin to telling a cancer patient that they should do the same.

      It's not like they're saying "suck it up" for no reason. They _really_ believe that abortion is murder and that creation of a fetus for scientific study (and mandatory destruction) is a perversion of science equal to the Nazi's death camp science. If cancer studies used the same methods, the same people _would_ oppose the studies, and would tell a cancer patient that they should do the same. Take a moment and think whether you'd like to have specific infertility studies continue if full term, born babies

      • by 0xdeadbeef (28836)

        They _really_ believe that abortion is murder

        No, they don't. Otherwise they'd be holding funerals for miscarriages. (And yes, I know that some of them *are* that crazy.) They simply find it a convenient reason to be outraged that people don't ascribe to their religious dogma.

    • In the end, we resolved our infertility by adopting.

      Aww, crap. Missed that, sorry.

    • by COMON$ (806135) on Friday April 16, 2010 @03:33PM (#31875864) Journal
      Ok no offense here, but as an individual who loves kids and is infertile myself. (been trying for 4 years before finding out we were infertile). We will be adopting 4 kids over the next few years hopefully. However, there is a point when you have to stop and realize nature is telling you something. If you have a massive genetic disorder that keeps you from having children then perhaps you should adopt rather than continue the line of poor genes? Will our own narcissism be our undoing eventually as we pass on these traits to our children?

      In response to your Religious accusations, you have to remember most of these religious institutions do not have anything against new fertility treatments. But when you draw the line for humanity at conception, any fertility treatments that involve destroying embryos would be viewed with the same level of morality as people who kill babies after they are born. However, the Church would support it if the embryos were adopted out.

  • This is great progress, because it means that lesbian mothers will eventually be able to have children that are genetically related to both parents. This would mean that all their children are female, but they may not mind.

    • by graft (556969)

      This is great progress, because it means that lesbian mothers will eventually be able to have children that are genetically related to both parents. This would mean that all their children are female, but they may not mind.

      This is false. Male and female genetic contributions are different because of maternal and paternal imprinting - certain genes are "flagged" on or off by methylation of DNA segments, and the pattern is different in men and women. This results in a careful balance - if you used two femal

  • Darn, I read that headline as "three-patent embryo" and thought it's some kind of IP gripe article.

    Never mind, I'm sure the number of patents on this is bigger by the order of magnitude anyways.

  • Nick Lane's book Power, Sex, Suicide and Mitchondria [amazon.com] was a fascinating read. Nick proposes several reasons why mitochondria would keep a few of their genes around, when the other 90% have been subsumed into the nucleus. These tend to be for the most crucial proteins in repairing the oxidation damage caused by this powerhouses.
  • A group grope?

  • I have to admit that this makes me nervous.

    The mitochondria "code" is supposed to be totally separate from the nuclear "code," but what if it isn't ? Even if the DNA is totally different in heritage, the cell and its mitochondria have evolved together, and that might extend to assuming that certain proteins, say, will be available even though they are produced by the other body. Plop another mitochondria in there, and there might be problems down the road.

  • All I could think of when I read this was "Twin Sons From Different Mothers"
  • Adoption? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by markass530 (870112) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `035ssakram'> on Friday April 16, 2010 @02:37PM (#31875042) Homepage
    I applaud any science achievement, for whatever reason. However every-time I read a story like this, and octomom, etc the first thing that comes to mind is adoption. Yea I was adopted so that contributes to my feelings on the subject, but the whole "Need" to have YOUR kid, well it just seems ridiculous to me
  • Looks like now it will be possible to be half Irish, half English, and half German.

    Also, this comic. [shawntionary.com]

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