The controversial program using cytoplasmic transplantation - adding cytoplasm from the egg of a healthy donor woman to that surrounding the nucleus of an infertile woman's egg - has been further criticised this week after it was disclosed that two of the babies created had genetic abnormalities.
Although it was subsequently shown that the babies born do indeed carry genetic material from three different adults, the team at the Institute for Reproductive Medicine and Science of the St Barnabas Medical Center in New Jersey reported that most of the maternal genes inherited by the babies came from their 'true mothers', and that all the babies born from the technique seemed to be totally healthy. Fifteen babies were born following treatment at the Institute, and the team at St Barnabas, led by Jacques Cohen, claimed that in recent years up to 30 babies had been born worldwide following the use of the technique.
Now it transpires that Cohen's team failed to report in their article published in the March edition of Human Reproduction that two of the pregnancies achieved during the experiment were unsuccessful: one fetus was aborted because it was found to have a rare genetic disorder called Turner's syndrome, and another of the babies miscarried for the same reason. Turner's syndrome is a chromosomal condition that arises from the partial or complete absence of one of the two X chromosomes in females. Thus the syndrome only affects girls, stunts growth and affects development at puberty. It is also associated with heart defects, infertility and kidney problems. Statistically, two in 17 cases of the genetic disorder is approximately seven or eight times more than would normally occur.
Experts are horrified at the news because the genetic defects can be passed on to future generations. Human Reproduction has since instituted tighter procedures for published articles. The St Barnabas scientists say that they still do not believe that the cytoplasm transfer procedure caused the incidence of Turner's syndrome.