May 21 2008 / by Bora
Category: Biotechnology Year: 2008 Rating: 13 Hot
This past Mother’s Day, it occurred to me that the meaning of parenthood is constantly evolving. While social trends, such as increasing divorce rates and rising numbers of same-sex marriages are major contributing factors, science is adding another layer to the evermore complex meaning of the modern family. A good example of this stems from the latest developments in genetic manipulation and assisted reproductive technology.
In a recent report, a British team of researchers at Newcastle University announced that they have created a human embryo conceived from three parents, in which the nuclear DNA is inherited from the mother and the father but the mitochondrial DNA is inherited from a third party. The three-parent embryo was created in an effort to prevent genetic diseases associated with defective maternal mitochondrial DNA. (cont.)
It is reported that 1,000-4,000 children are born each year with some type of mitochondrial diseases, which can affect cells of various vital organs, including the brain, nerves, muscle, kidney, and liver. In many cases, mitochondrial diseases are genetically inherited, specifically from the mother. By developing a technique in which the nuclear DNA of the fertilized embryo is inserted into an enucleated donor egg, the researchers essentially performed a mitochondrial transplant, providing the embryo with a more viable mitochondrial DNA. The researchers report that the three-parent baby is yet to be born but foresee that this procedure will be available as a treatment option in the next 3–5 years.
Combined with the rising number of cases of surrogate motherhood, brought on by improvements in safety and technique, the rapidly developing fields of genetic manipulation and assisted reproductive technology together are pushing the boundaries of the traditional sense of family and transforming the idea of parenthood. So we can be sure that in 10 years, some of us will have more Mother’s Day celebrations to attend than others.