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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.

SOURCES & REFERENCES
Fertility Doctor Markets Risky Unapproved Technique; Looks Forward to "Designer Babies"
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
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