On April 9, a 32-year old woman gave birth to a healthy baby boy in Athens, Greece after four unsuccessful attempts to conceive through in vitro fertilization (IVF.) While this may not sound all that unusual, the fact that the baby has DNA from three people is noteworthy. When IVF apparently wasn’t working, the woman opted for a procedure called “maternal spindle transfer.”
With this relatively unknown technique, the DNA is removed from a donor’s egg and replaced with the intended mother’s own DNA before the egg is fertilized. In cases where a woman’s mitochondria somehow inhibit the fertilization of her eggs, maternal spindle transfer offers hope because the donor’s mitochondria may play a key role in allowing the egg to be fertilized.
This new mother apparently didn’t have mitochondrial dysfunction or mitochondrial disease. In fact, this birth was the first in the case of a mother without mitochondrial problems. However, other children have been conceived using this technique, including cases in the U.K. and Ukraine.
Researchers caution that this procedure is not likely to become commonplace in fertility clinics just yet. In fact, this type of research is not permitted in the United States because it involves changing an embryo’s genetic makeup. There are also scientific questions about whether, and how, adding mitochondrial DNA from a donor’s egg might impact the child as he or she develops.
Still, this procedure and other scientific advances in reproductive medicine may ultimately help provide answers to questions about why some women’s eggs are defective or decline as women age. And, maternal spindle transfer may offer some hope for women who struggle with mitochondrial problems but who want to conceive and carry children.
If you are considering using surrogacy to add to your family, The Surrogacy Law Center can help. We offer caring and professional legal services to individuals and families, with staff that speak Mandarin, Cantonese, French, Spanish and Khmer. Based in Carlsbad, CA, we are dedicated to drafting comprehensive surrogacy, egg, sperm and embryo donation contracts as well as timely and thorough parentage orders. No matter what your legal needs may be, we are here for you. Contact us today to learn more!