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Mitochondrial Donation Treatment

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May 15, 2023

Why in news?

An announcement was made recently that a baby was born using three persons’ DNA in the UK.

What is mitochondria?

  • Mitochondria - They are membrane-bound cell organelles that are the powerhouses of the cells as they generate the energy needed to power the cell's biochemical reactions.
  • Chemical energy produced by the mitochondria is stored in a small molecule called adenosine triphosphate (ATP).
  • Mitochondria contain their own small chromosomes.
  • Generally, mitochondria, and mitochondrial DNA, are inherited only from the mother.
  • Mitochondrial diseases - When the mitochondria are impaired and do not produce sufficient energy, it affects the functioning of organs.
  • The diseases that arise out of mitochondrial mutations are called mitochondrial diseases.
  • Mitochondrial diseases are only passed on by the mother.
  • It has no cure, but can be treated.
  • In order to prevent the child from inheriting the mother’s mitochondrial disease, the three parent technology was used.

What is Mitochondrial Donation Treatment?

  • Mitochondrial donation treatment is also known as mitochondrial replacement therapy (MRT).
  • Advanced in-vitro fertilization technique is used for mitochondrial donation treatment.
  • The baby’s biological father’s sperm was used to fertilise the eggs from the biological mother, who has a mitochondrial disease, and a third, female donor with clear mitochondria, separately.
  • Then, the nuclear genetic material from the donor’s egg is removed and replaced with the genetic material from the biological parents’.
  • The final product (the egg) which has the genetic material from the parents, and the mitochondria from the female donor, is implanted in the uterus.
  • This baby (three-parent baby) will be free from the mother’s mitochondrial disease.

Mitochondrial donation

What are the short falls of mitochondrial donation treatment?

  • Sometimes it is possible that a small amount of the maternal mitochondria with errors may get passed on during the procedure.
  • So-called reversion or reversal could lead to a disease in the child.

The UK is not the first country to create babies from MDT. In 2016, a US doctor announced the world’s first MDT birth after treating a woman who carried mitochondrial mutations that cause Leigh syndrome.



  1. The Hindu│Short Falls Of Mitochondria Donation Treatment
  2. The Guardian│Mitochondria Donation Treatment
  3. NHGRI│About Mitochondria
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