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Controversial doctor to use MRT technique for over 40s fertility

19 June 2017
Appeared in BioNews 905

The fertility doctor who led the team which produced the world's first baby through mitochondrial replacement therapy (MRT) is now looking to use the same technique in a commercial venture.

Dr John Zhang of the New Hope Fertility Center Clinic in New York City aims to use the maternal spindle transfer process to 'rejuvenate' the eggs of older women aged 42 to 47, according to press reports last week.

This technique was used by Dr Zhang and colleagues (see BioNews 895) in the birth of the first baby using MRT to a mother carrying a heritable mitochondrial disorder in Mexico, 2016 (see Bionews 871).

It involved taking a donor egg with healthy mitochondria, removing its nucleus and replacing it with a nucleus from the mother, before carrying out fertilisation through standard IVF.

Now Dr Zhang's new company, Darwin Life, is offering 'Human Egg Reconstitution in vitro fertilisation' or HER IVF.

'Since age doesn't affect the quality of DNA directly, HER IVF replacement techniques may result in a patient oocyte (egg) that is decades younger in age than the patient herself - prolonging natural fertility,' states Darwin Life's website.

The company is currently assessing women for the procedure, according to MIT Technology Review, which will cost US $80,000 - $120,000. But as the technique is illegal in the USA, it would be offered only outside of the country.

The plan has met with criticism and concern. 'This is an experimental technique, with no robust peer-reviewed studies to support either its effectiveness or safety,' said Marcy Darnovsky, executive director of non-profit organisation The Center for Genetics and Society, USA.

Professor Robin Lovell-Badge of the Crick Institute, London, said the plan was 'concerning', noting that the procedure carries potential risks such as faulty mitochondria still ending up in the resulting embryo, and the chance of genetic incompatibility.

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Center for Genetics and Society |  13 June 2017
The Fertility Doctor Trying to Commercialize Three-Parent Babies
MIT Technology Review |  13 June 2017
This Controversial Doctor Wants to Use 'Three-Parent' Embryos to Treat Infertility
GIZMODO |  16 June 2017
5 February 2018 - by Dr Sam Sherratt 
The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has granted permission for doctors to create the UK's first 'three-person' children by mitochondrial donation.
29 August 2017 - by Dr César Palacios-González 
Almost a year after the first live birth of a baby following a mitochondrial replacement technique procedure, the US Food and Drug Administration has sent a very strongly-worded letter to the scientist and team responsible for the event...
14 August 2017 - by Georgia Everett 
The Food and Drug Administration has warned a US fertility doctor to stop marketing mitochondrial replacement therapy – a technique involving the creation of an embryo with DNA from three people...
24 April 2017 - by Dr César Palacios-González 
It is not every day that we can examine the details of the first use of a new reproductive technology. But the first live birth of a baby following the use of a mitochondrial replacement technique (MRT) in IVF last year gives a window into just this. The case – with procedures carried out in both the US and Mexico – also raises legal questions...
3 April 2017 - by Dr Helen Robertson 
Details of the world's first successful use of mitochondrial replacement therapy in IVF have been published...
23 January 2017 - by Antony Starza-Allen 
A baby has been born in the Ukraine following the use of an experimental IVF procedure known as mitochondrial donation...
3 October 2016 - by Dr Julia Hill 
In a world first, the birth of a baby boy who was conceived using mitochondrial donation has been reported...
9 June 2014 - by Alice Plein 
Two experimental IVF techniques that could prevent certain types of incurable genetic disease are 'not unsafe', a report from the UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority has found....
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