Search for:


Mitochondrion is present in almost every human cell and produces large amounts of
energy which our cells use. In order for the cell to function properly the mitochondria should be
in a healthy condition. As “Foundation for Mitochondrial Disease” explains, unhealthy
mitochondria can contribute to different disorders which are called mitochondrial diseases, such
as Muscular dystrophy, ALS, Lou Gehrig’s (par 3). Mitochondrion has its own DNA which
participates only in the process of producing energy and has nothing to do with the classical
meaning of DNA, which is transferring genetic characteristics. Mitochondrial diseases can be
passed from the mother to the children for generations. Thus, various scientists have presented
the idea of mitochondrial donation which is a procedure that includes taking a small part of
mitochondria from another woman so the child will have genes from two mothers and one father
– resulting in three-parent babies (Gorman, par 1). The thinking behind this method is to prevent
children from being born with different mitochondrial diseases inherited from their mothers. At
least three viewpoints exist regarding three parent babies: those who support mitochondrial
donation, e.g in the U.K; those who oppose it, e.g the Roman Catholic Church; and those who
represent an undecided position, such as in the U.S.

Let’s first consider those who advocate for the use of mitochondria donations, such as in
the U.K. Proposed by the U.K government, scientists at Human Fertilization Embryology
Authority in 2012 used various methods to better understand general public opinion concerning mitochondrial donation which they called “Medical Frontiers; debating mitochondrial or
replacement” (“Mitochondrial donation,” par 2). In order to understand public opinion regarding
this issue they included various online polls, surveys and public meetings involving some
questions that were unbiased. From the results of all these online surveys it was concluded that
the British authorities should approve such treatment as long as it is safe and follows various
regulatory framework (“Mitochondrial Donation”, par 3).
As Shoot explains, women at risk of passing mitochondrial diseases do not have many
options available to them if they want to give birth to a healthy child (par 4). They might choose
to use donor eggs or, in some circumstances, a method of pre-natal genetic diagnosis which is
before one of their individual IVF embryos is located back into their own womb. While you use
mitochondrial donation to create IVF, it offers potential parents a chance of having their own
children with their genes and not with any disorders that may be caused from mitochondria (par
4). Additionally, the procedure might result that diseases of mitochondria would be eliminated
entirely from future generations in that family (par 5)

three parent babies

The first country to approve of the option of mitochondrial donation therapy was the
United Kingdom. Alana Saarinen is the one of the 50 people in the world who has “three
parents” (“Ethics of Mitochondrial Donation,” par 4). The process was done though pioneering
infertility treatment, which later was permitted in the U.S. (par 4). Till now Alana does not differ
from other teenagers around the world. The fact that she has a part of another woman’s
mitochondria did not affect her appearance or her personality (par 4).
In contrast, we will now look at those who do not agree with the use of such technology
for the creation of human offspring. Various critics such as the Roman Catholic Church and the Human Genetics Alert in England and Wales, claim that one of the main problems and concerns
with the use of this technique is the fact that till now the technique has been tested only on
animals and in the laboratory (Sample, 2015). Hence scientists cannot be sure that the technique
of mitochondrial donation is 100% safe when it is used on humans (par 4).
For many of us when we first think about “three parent babies”, we might immediately
imagine ourselves with three parents living in the same house. According to Knapton, 56 did not
agree whether we should allow it, and about 44% agreed that this technique should be allowed
(par 3). Some researchers have shown that if people will start using this technique of the “three
parent babies” they would be in a greater risk to have cancer in their future life (par 5).
Critics mention that we would face the real problem when the processes would be voted
out for real. As an example, critics believe that the mitochondrial DNA would affect metabolism
and it might turn out that mitochondrial DNA also affect personal characteristic in undecided
ways. ("Ethics of Mitochondrial Donation," par 4). Another hazard which has been considered
by critics of mitochondria donation is the epigenetic effects (Sample, 2015). Epigenetics refers to
the changes that happen during the gene expression and does not have to do with the changes
that happen to the underlying DNA. The epigenetics can have a considerable effect by
transforming the way genes work, thus producing permanent alterations. In addition critics
consider that the donation of your mitochondria still has its problems with ethical boundaries
(Ali, 2015). Allowing the technique of mitochondrial donation can lead us to idea of “designer
babies” which supposedly is a technique that tweaks genes to provide desirable characteristics
(Sample, 2015).
Further a third perspective also exists. There are people who still do not know if they
should completely agree with the idea of mitochondrial donation or not. After all the research

that has been done and is continuing to be conducted to address the issue of “three parent
babies,” there is still the risk that these babies may be born with different diseases if the
mitochondria comes from a third party donor. According to Newman, “Estimates indicate that
the average number of children born each year in the U.S. from women who are at risk for
transmitting mitochondrial disease is less than 1,000” (par 2). As claimed by the “United
Mitochondrial Disease Foundation Pittsburgh” in U.S each year more than four thousand
children are being born with different mitochondrial diseases (Newman, par 2).
The “three-person IVF” is a technique which its benefit may perhaps soothe the
challenging choice for women who want to be mothers, having a mutation that would be scared
for women to give birth to their biological children, and also on the way to avoid the youngsters
pain and moreover to avoid passing on their mitochondrial disorders (Vogel, Stokstad, par 1) The
report which was conducted by the FDA was concerned that the number of children born with
mitochondrial diseases could increase (Vogel, Stokstad, par 1). In the early autumn of 2015 in
United Kingdom the first attempt of replacing mitochondria could happen and early in 2016 the
first baby from mitochondrial donation could be born (Vogel, Stokstad, par 2)
The initiative of Nita Farahany, the director of “Duke University’s interdisciplinary Science and
Society,” and a part of Obama’s Presidential Commission for the study of ”Bioethical Issues,”
ended up supporting the technique of mitochondrial donation. According to Farahany, three
parent babies will have 99.9% of mitochondrial DNA from their intending mother. Therefore the
additional donor of mitochondria should not be considered as a real parent. She also stated that
the “mitochondria give energy but not the coding traits that make us who we are” (Shoot, 2015).
This tells us that donating your own mitochondrial DNA does not create your features; however
mitochondria would just help on giving energy. Even though considering the benefits of mitochondrial donation, there is no sign that “three parent babies” will be soon legalized in US
(Shoot, par 3).
In conclusion we can say that mitochondrial medicine is a field which has been changing
rapidly. The process of mitochondrial donation legalization included many parliamentary
debates, different public dialogues, online surveys but in March 2015, the UK becomes the first
country which legalized mitochondrial donation (Newman, par 6). In addition, different opinions
exists regarding this topics, those who agree with three parent babies, those who oppose and
those who have undecided position.

Write A Comment