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HFEA grants first UK licence to carry out mitochondrial donation

20 March 2017
Appeared in BioNews 893

Doctors at Newcastle Fertility Centre have been granted the first UK licence to use mitochondrial donation as a fertility treatment to prevent the inheritance of mitochondrial disease.

The technique, which involves the creation of an embryo derived from the mother, father and a healthy female mitochondrial donor, was approved for clinical use by the  Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) in December 2016, but the Newcastle group is the first to have a licence approved by the regulator.

Professor Sir Doug Turnbull, Director of the Wellcome Centre for Mitochondrial Research at Newcastle said: 'We are delighted by today's decision as it paves the way offering mitochondrial donation as part of an NHS-funded package of care for families affected by mitochondrial disease.

'Newcastle is a major referral centre for the women with mitochondrial DNA mutations in the UK and it will be hugely welcomed as it provides them reproductive choice.'

Mitochondrial donation is used when a mother is at risk of transmitting a mitochondrial disease to any naturally-conceived offspring. To prevent the inheritance of faulty mitochondria in the mother's egg, the nuclear material is removed after fertilisation and placed into a fertilised donor egg which contains healthy mitochondria, and implanted to develop as a healthy fetus.

The Newcastle centre anticipates treating up to 25 women per year who are at a very high risk of transmitting mitochondrial disease, which is often debilitating and often fatal. Consequently, they are looking for healthy women under the age of 35 who would be willing to donate their eggs.

The HFEA granted the licence after Newcastle Fertility Centre put forward an application proving that it had the high-quality equipment, staff and expertise to offer mitochondrial donation, particularly considering the fertility technique was developed by scientists in Newcastle.

Many influential members of the scientific community have spoken out, praising the HFEA's decision. Dr Simon Fishel, managing director of CARE Fertility, told The Telegraph: 'This is excellent news, especially for those patients in the UK who have been waiting for this opportunity… it is indeed a step in the right direction following in-depth debate and consideration of all issues from the medical science to the ethics.'

Dr Meenakshi Choudhary, head of the mitochondrial donor programme at Newcastle Fertility Centre, also added: 'Women of the northeast who donated their eggs for the pre-clinical research deserve a special mention, without whom we would not have been able to see it reach this milestone.'

First UK licence to create three-person baby granted by fertility regulator
The Guardian |  16 March 2017
HFEA statement on mitochondrial donation
HFEA (statement) |  16 March 2017
Newcastle awarded world's first mitochondrial licence
Newcastle University (press release) |  16 March 2017
Newcastle University gets green light to create three-parent babies
The Telegraph |  16 March 2017
Three-person baby licence granted
BBC News |  16 March 2017
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