Mitochondrial donation

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. 

Our position

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.

What we’re doing

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.

Timeline of key dates

Our timeline sets out the key dates which led to the licensing of mitochondrial donation.

2017

March 2017

2016

December 2016

November 2016

July 2016

June 2016

  • Published in the journal Nature, scientists at the Wellcome Centre for Mitochondrial Research report the first in-depth analysis of human embryos created using a new technique designed to reduce the risk of mothers passing on mitochondrial disease to their children.

2015

October 2015

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. 

2014

December 2014 

September 2014 

July 2014 

June 2014 

  • 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.

April 2014 

March 2014 

2013

June 2013 

  • 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.  

March 2013 

  • 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.

2012

September 2012

July 2012 

  • The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority runs a series of public dialogue events across the UK.

June 2012 

May 2012 

2011

2010 

  • Researchers at Newcastle University develop mitochondrial donation techniques to prevent diseased mitochondria being passed from mother to child.

2008 

2005

  • 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.

2000

More information