Recently I heard about a child that was born with the DNA of three different people. This idea ruffled the feathers of some end times prophesy watchers. The story I got from these sources was something to the effect that the nucleus of the mother’s ova was removed and replaced someone else’s nucleus in the donor egg resulting in the DNA of two mothers and one father. I thought to myself, “How can that be? I thought the DNA is in the nucleus.” I decided to find out for myself just what occurred. This lead to a lot of research just to try and understand what was done. I still don’t understand it all because it is so technical in an area of science that I really don’t have much knowledge. What I did learn is that there is nuclear DNA and mitochondrial DNA and they are not the same. Only the mother passes on mitochondrial DNA. It is this DNA used to trace the origins of peoples today. But the mitochondrial DNA is not the part that makes us who we are, who we are comes from the nuclear DNA of both parents.
The basic drift of this family’s story is that the mother has defective mitochondrial DNA that causes Leigh Syndrome and the couple had already lost two children, one at age 6 and the other at 8 months. I have no problem with a couple wanting to raise a healthy child to adulthood. There were two options for doing the in vitro fertilization (IVF). One involved two fertilized eggs, one from the mother and one from the donor female ovum, both fertilized by the father. The nucleus of the mother with the nuclear DNA would then put into the donor egg which had the nucleus removed and the excess cellular material would then be destroyed. The religious convictions of the parents would not allow the destruction of a fertilized egg so they opted for the other method, which apparently in this case was the first time it was used on humans.
In the second method the nucleus of the unfertilized eggs were transferred before fertilization. The mother’s egg cell nucleus was inserted into the donor egg after it’s nucleus was removed. This resulted in a modified ovum with the mother’s nuclear DNA and the donor’s healthy mitochondrial DNA. No fertilized eggs were destroyed as a result of this genetic manipulation. But it does give the baby, who was born in April 2016 the DNA of three people. He’s not the first to have the DNA of three people, but he is the first to acquire it through this particular method. After months the baby appears to be a healthy child. Leigh Syndrome manifests in infancy, so there is hope that he will not inherit it because of the science that went into allowing him to have life.
This method of IVF is banned in the US, so the American doctor who performed this complex procedure did so in Mexico for Jordanian parents. In researching the subject I discovered just why it is banned. Not for this particular procedure but for all forms of genetic manipulation for IVF. In the early 1990’s another method was used to try and correct genetic defects from the mother’s mitochondrial DNA. The method used was to remove the mitochondria from a healthy egg and inject it into the mother’s egg with the hope of overriding the defective mitochondria. This was called cytoplasmic transfer. There were governmental concerns about the methodology which resulted in banning the procedure. As many as 30 children were born using this method. It was primarily used to revitalize the mitochondria in the ova of older women experiencing infertility. The hasty human application based on laboratory mouse success without assessment of the potential risks from the three source DNA has been questioned. At this point there are somewhere between 30 and 50 people now that were born in the late 1990’s to the early 2000’s using one form or another of mitochondrial manipulation therapy (MMT). Soon it will be possible to determine if the modified mitochondrial DNA will be passed on to subsequent generations.
Now for my take on the whole controversy. First and foremost, the genetic manipulation done here is unlike that of the GMO food controversy. GMO foods take genetics from an unrelated organism and combine it with the food product to give it attributes that it would not otherwise have. The MMT used for human fertility uses human DNA from healthy donor cells to fix problems in unhealthy reproductive cells. The purpose is to produce healthy human offspring for parents who either are having problems conceiving or the mother has defective mitochondrial DNA that adversely affects the viability and health of the baby. These are good purposes. From my perspective all good things come from God. God gave us the mental faculties to discover these medical breakthroughs. As I see it, the idea to do this kind of research to help couples birthe healthy children was most likely given to these researchers by God. Of course all good things can be corrupted and be sure that they will be, but, to unequivocally condemn the birth of a child with the DNA of 3 parents is short sighted. The child does not represent the creation of a monster. The child is fully human, has a soul, and is loved by God. So, yes, I believe that God does approve of the beneficial use of MMT to allow couples the joy at a chance of raising a healthy child to adulthood, with all the risks that entails as well.
Below are links to some of the articles that I read in gaining more information on this topic. I hope that I’ve inspired enough interest for you to read a bit about this topic yourself. Though quite technical in some places, the topic is fascinating.