New gene technique might prevent hereditary diseases

Updated: Aug 28, 2009, 00:00 AM IST

Washington: In a breakthrough, US scientists have found a way to replace genetically abnormal parts of an egg which may eradicate many hereditary diseases like cancers and diabetes passed from the mother to child.

The findings, which reopens the raging ethical debate over embryo research allows the scientists for the first time to safely remove and replace genetically abnormal mitochondrial DNA from an ovum.

The technique developed by Oregon National Primate Research Center and Oregon Health & Science University successfully carried out in monkeys – would need a controversial change in the law to be used on humans.

The scientists, who reported their findings in the journal Nature, said that the method involves removing the nucleus of an egg from an affected woman with mitochondrial defeats and transplanting it into a healthy donor egg. The egg is then fertilised in a test tube and transplanted back into the original donor.

The resultant baby remains the woman`s biological child but without her inherited defects to the mitochondria.

"We believe this discovery in nonhuman primates can rapidly be translated into human therapies aimed at preventing inherited disorders passed from mothers to their children through the mitochondrial DNA, such as certain forms of cancer, diabetes, infertility and neurodegenerative diseases," Shoukhrat Mitalipov, an associate scientist Oregon University said.

Bureau Report