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Call for Australia to allow mitochondrial donation techniques

25 September 2017
Appeared in BioNews 919

A campaign has been launched in Australia to overturn laws preventing couples from accessing mitochondrial donation.

The procedure, legalised in the UK in 2015 (see BioNews 826), involves conceiving a child via IVF with the genetic material of three people – two parents and one mitochondrial donor – to prevent the transmission of maternally-inherited mitochondrial diseases.

The Australian Mitochondrial Disease Foundation (AMDF) say that mitochondrial donation could prevent up to 60 Australian children a year being born with severely disabling and potentially fatal mitochondrial diseases.

The technique is currently illegal in Australia as it contravenes the Research Involving Human Embryos Act 2002 and the Prohibition of Human Cloning for Reproduction Act 2002.

'It is not human cloning by any means, but the procedures that are used overlap with that and it's clear that in Australia it would be illegal to mix the genetic material from three individuals,' said Professor David Thorburn, group leader of mitochondrial research at the Murdoch Children's Research Institute, Victoria.

The committee that last reviewed the legislation in 2011 concluded that mitochondrial donation was not 'sufficiently advanced' to warrant a change. The AMDF, alongside Professor Thornburn and other experts, believes that the science has since moved on.

'This has been rigorously reviewed scientifically and ethically, as well as from a public-perception point of view in the UK. The level of work that's been done in this area justifies a change,' said Sean Murray, chief executive of the AMDF.

The first birth resulting from mitochondrial donation occurred in Mexico last year (see BioNews 871 ). The embryo was initially developed at a fertility clinic in New York, but implantation was carried out in Mexico to avoid US federal regulations (see BioNews 895). Another birth has since been reported in Ukraine, but details of the procedure have not yet been published (see BioNews 885).

There is growing concern that Australian couples may start to go overseas to have the procedure.

'It's a great worry if things are done without any regulatory oversight,' said Professor Thornburn.

Call for change to human cloning law to prevent genetic disorder
The Age |  21 September 2017
Cloning law change urged in fight against genetic disorder
The Armidale Express |  22 September 2017
Push for three-parent technique in Australia to save babies from mitochondrial disease
ABC Online |  21 September 2017
Three-parent technique can avoid mitochondrial disease suffering
The Australian |  21 September 2017
12 April 2021 - by Dr Julian Koplin 
Australia is on the cusp of legalising mitochondrial donation...
28 January 2019 - by Jen Willows 
Greek and Spanish researchers have announced that a clinical trial using mitochondrial donation to treat infertility has resulted in a pregnancy...
2 July 2018 - by Sarah Pritchard 
Australia may become the second nation to legalise mitochondrial donation, after its Senate endorsed the so-called 'three-person IVF' technique in a recent report...
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...
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...
5 December 2016 - by Dr Julia Hill 
Scientists advising the HFEA have recommended that the technique of mitochondrial replacement therapy be approved for clinical use in the UK...
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...
2 November 2015 - by Dr Katie Howe 
Regulations that came into force this week will enable the UK to be the first country in the world to allow the use of mitochondrial donation techniques during IVF...
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