In Vitro Fertilization: Ethical Problems of Mitochondrial DNA and Three Biological Parents

In vitro fertilisation: ethical problems of mitochondrial DNA and

three biological parents

Mitochondria are essential for the cell energy production through the citric acid cycle. In order for

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the cycle to work in a best way possible, the mitochondria are equiped with their own DNA that

primarily codes for proteins vital to the energy production and oxidative metabolism of the cells.

Mitochondrial DNA has several differences to nuclear DNA. Unlike the ”regular” nuclear DNA,

mitochondrial DNA in circular like most bacterial DNA and unlike nuclear DNA, mitochondrial

DNA is more prone to possible mutations. Mitochondrial DNA is also passed down from mother to

the child since the female egg provides most of the fetuses mitochondria and the male sperm’s

mitochondria act in a minor role in the fertilisation process.

Due to the nature of mitochondrial DNA, genetic disorders typically pass down from the mother.

Mitochondrial diseases are characterized by changes in the cell energy production that often leads to

various manifestations, most of them related to growth and metabolism. In addition the disorders

are almost always lethal and cause the patient to die at a relatively young age.

Today women suffering from mitochondrial mutations have a choice if they wish to give birth to a

healthy child: in vitro fertilisation (IVF). In this case the nucleus of the women’s egg would be

removed to a healthy womans enucleated egg. The formed egg would have nuclear DNA from the

intended mother and mitochondrial DNA from the female egg donor and would then be fertilized by

a sperm of the future father, thus resulting in three-party parenthood and hence the method is often

called three-parent in vitro fertilisation.

The transfer o…

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…ever the entire role of mitochondria is, the new mitochondrial

genes are quite certainly the healthier ones.

Three-parent IVF is an actual option for women that suffer from mitochocondrial disease but want

their children to be free from the condition. The desire is understandable since the disease are often

severe and cause a dramatic loss of life quality. However three-parent IVF may have unforeseen

legal and medical consequences that could affect the porn child in other ways. Additionally we do

not know the long-term effects the three-parent in vitro fertilisation has on the embryo, and must

balance the cost of removing the unhealthy mitochondria with the risk of possible harm or

mitochondrial defects the three-parent IVF technique might cause. We also need to take in to count

the social aspects the possible three-parent in vitro fertilisation might have.