U.K. sees success in mitochondrial replacement therapy

Published - May 13, 2023 08:30 pm IST

Eight years after the U.K. became the first country in the world to approve a reproductive technique known as mitochondrial replacement therapy (MRT), “less than five” children have been born using the procedure, as of April 2023. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), the U.K. fertility regulator that approves the IVF-based procedure on a case-by-case basis, recently confirmed this in response to a freedom of information request. The fertility regulator refused to share more information about the birth details of the children as that “could lead to the identification of a person to whom the HFEA owes a duty of confidentiality”. 

Last year, Australia became the second country to approve this therapy.

The mitochondrial replacements in “less than five” children were carried out by the Newcastle Fertility Centre, U.K., the only clinic that has been approved by the regulator to conduct this therapy.

Three-parent IVF

Mitochondria replacement involves transferring nuclear genetic material from a mother’s egg into a donor egg that has had its nuclear DNA removed so the embryo does not inherit the mitochondrial disease. This would allow a woman carrying mitochondrial diseases to have healthy children. The resulting IVF embryo combines sperm and egg from the biological parents, while the mitochondria is from the donor’s egg.

As a result, the baby has DNA from each of its parents, along with 37 genes from the donor. This is the reason why this technique is also called three-parent IVF (in vitro fertilisation).

According to the HFEA, one in 6,500 babies in the U.K. is born with a mitochondrial disorder which can lead to serious problems such as heart and liver disease, and respiratory problems, which can even lead to the death of the infant.


The Authority said, in 2013, that this procedure can save around 10 lives each year in the U.K.

Mitochondria is the powerhouse of a cell, and any mutation that damages the mitochondria tends to affect energy-hungry organs the most.

As of 2013, about 12,000 people in the U.K. live with such conditions, the reason why the therapy was approved by the HFEA.

In the U.S., 1,000-4,000 babies with mitochondrial disease are born each year.

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