For procreation, it has always taken two to tango. But scientists from
the UK’s Newcastle University have taken reproductive biology where it has never
gone before – creating a human embryo from three parents, two women and a

The scientists believe the
technique will help prevent women with diseases of the mitochondria – tiny
batteries within each cell that provide energy – from passing on the defects to
their children. Mitochodrial DNA is carried from mother to offspring and faults
in it can cause about 50 known diseases, some of which lead to disability and

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Researchers from
Newcastle University presented their findings at a medical conference at the
weekend, a university spokeswoman said on

According to reports
in the British media, the Newcastle team has created 10 successful three-parent
embryos from couples at risk of mitochondrial disease. The embryos were
fertilized through the conventional in vitro method.

After a day, each embryo was
emptied of its pronuclei – structures that contain the sperm and egg which are
still separate at this stage. These pronuclei were inserted into an emptied egg
from a second woman with healthy

In this way, the
team created embryos which contained genetic material from the original parents
but had healthy mitochondria from the donor woman.

The embryos grew normally till
the fifth day, after which they were

If the embryos were
to be implanted back into the mothers, they would have created the world’s first
genetically modified babies. The team’s experiments with mice have produced
healthy offspring.

Patrick Chinnery, a member of the Newcastle team, was quoted by the


website as saying: "We believe from this work, and work we have done on other
animals that in principle we could develop this technique and offer treatment in
the foreseeable future that will give families some hope of avoiding passing
these diseases to their children."

Via Times of India