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The New Scientist exclusively reported that a baby has been born carrying the DNA of three parents, the first successful use of the so-called “three-parent” genetic technique. A Jordanian couple turned to the procedure after trying to start a family for 20 years and living through four miscarriages and the deaths of two children along the way.
The procedure was performed in Mexico, as the three-parent technique has not been approved in the U.S. It was done by the normally New York City-based New Hope Fertility Center team, led by John Zhang. The three-parent technique allows families like the Jordanian couple to have children healthy children despite genetic mutations. The baby’s mother has a genetic disorder called Leigh syndrome that affects the nervous system. Two of her previous children were born with the disorder, and both died very young.
According to the New Scientist, the UK-approved version of the “three-parent” technique goes as follows:
“The method approved in the UK is called pronuclear transfer and involves fertilizing both the mother’s egg and a donor egg with the father’s sperm. Before the fertilised eggs start dividing into early-stage embryos, each nucleus is removed. The nucleus from the donor’s fertilised egg is discarded and replaced by that from the mother’s fertilised egg.”
However, Zhang actually used a different version of the technique, one called spindle nuclear transfer. He chose it because the Muslim couple didn’t want to destroy two embryos. The New Scientist explained the process:
“[Zhang] removed the nucleus from one of the mother’s eggs and inserted it into a donor egg that had had its own nucleus removed. The resulting egg – with nuclear DNA from the mother and mitochondrial DNA from a donor – was then fertilised with the father’s sperm. Five embryos were created and the one that developed was implanted in the mother."
The couple’s baby boy was born April 6 of this year and has shown no signs of illness. After testing the baby, Zhang found less than one percent of the child's mitochondria have his mother’s genetic mutation. It is reportedly only when 18 percent of mitochondria are affected that there’s cause for alarm.