Mitochondrial donation is an IVF technique that gives families affected by mitochondrial disease the chance of having healthy children.
It involves taking the DNA out of a woman’s egg that has faulty mitochondria (the ‘batteries’ that give all our cells their energy), and transferring it to a donor egg with healthy mitochondria.
We actively support mitochondrial donation and have driven legislative change to ensure this cutting-edge technique can be used in clinics for the benefit of patients.
As a result of our work, and the work of others, the UK Parliament voted in support of mitochondrial donation in February 2015.
Since October 2015, mitochondrial donation has been licensed and regulated by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority for clinical use in the UK.
Why does mitochondrial donation matter?
- Approximately 1 in 200 children in the UK are born with faulty mitochondrial DNA.
- While many people have mild or no symptoms, around 1 in 6,500 may develop more serious mitochondrial disorders.
- In many families, mitochondrial disease affects multiple family members.
- The disease can occur at a young age and lead to disability and death. Currently there is no cure.
Exploring the policy issues
For more than a decade, we’ve worked to engage with the public, parliamentarians and others about mitochondrial disease and donation.
We’ve provided opportunities for people to explore the techniques and their implications through events and communications.
Our partners have included biomedical and social scientists, ethicists and biomedical research and patient charities.
Providing long-term funding
We’ve provided long-term funding to establish and support researchers at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Mitochondrial Research at Newcastle University who pioneered the donation technique.
We'll continue to consider applications for research funding related to these technologies.
Our timeline sets out the key dates which led to the licensing of mitochondrial donation.
January – February 2015
- In the House of Lords peers vote by 280 to 48 in support of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology (Mitochondrial Donation) Regulations 2015.
- In the House of Commons MPs vote by 382 to 128 to pass the Human Fertilisation and Embryology (Mitochondrial Donation) Regulations 2015.
- The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority releases its third scientific review of the safety and efficacy of mitochondrial donation. It reports that there is no evidence to suggest either technique is unsafe and both have potential to be used to prevent serious mitochondrial disease.
- The Department of Health and the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority state that draft regulations to permit mitochondrial donation will be issued later in 2013, then taken to further public consultation.
- The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority publishes a report on their public consultation and updated scientific review, which concludes that mitochondrial donation techniques have potential to be used if safety and efficacy are refined, and that the public are broadly supportive.
- The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority runs a series of public dialogue events across the UK.
- Researchers at Newcastle University develop mitochondrial donation techniques to prevent diseased mitochondria being passed from mother to child.
- Researchers at Newcastle University obtain a research licence to work with human oocytes to explore mitochondrial donation techniques.
- The House of Commons Science and Technology Committee publishes an extensive report, Human Reproductive Technologies and the Law, which supports further research in the area.