New evidence supports mitochondrial donation

Wellcome researchers have found that a new IVF-based technique to reduce the risk of mothers passing on mitochondrial disease to their children is likely to lead to normal pregnancies.

Mitochondrial donation involves transplanting the nuclear DNA of a recently formed embryo into the egg of a donor which contains healthy mitochondrial DNA. Mitochondrial disease is devastating and often life limiting.

A vote in the House of Commons in February 2015 made the technique legal in the UK but no licence has yet been issued to a clinic.

In a large study involving over 500 eggs from 64 donor women, researchers have found that the technique is likely to lead to normal pregnancies. 

There is also evidence that it will reduce the risk of babies having mitochondrial disease.

The results of this study will be considered by an independent expert scientific panel convened by the UK’s regulatory body, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA). The HFEA will then decide whether to issue the first licence to a clinic.

A licensed clinic would allow couples to decide whether to use mitochondrial donation to try to have healthy children.

For more information, please read our press release and policy work on mitochondrial donation.