We are getting one step closer to Gattaca:
Scientists have created baby monkeys with a father and two mothers. Their goal was to eliminate birth defects, but increasing the number of biological parents beyond two could add a futuristic twist to an area where the law already is a mess: the question of who, in this age of artificial insemination and surrogacy, should be considered the legal parents of a baby.
Researchers at the Oregon National Primate Research Center were looking for ways to eliminate diseases that can be inherited through maternal DNA. They developed, as the magazine Nature reported last summer, a kind of swap in which defective DNA from the egg is removed and replaced with genetic material from another female’s egg. The researchers say the procedure is also likely to work on humans.
The result would be a baby with three biological parents — or “fractional parents,” as Adam Kolber, a professor at the University of San Diego School of Law, calls them.
He mentioned the idea over lunch at The Times, and it provided plenty of grist for debate among law junkies: Could a baby one day have 100 parents? Could anyone who contributes DNA claim visitation rights? How much DNA is enough? Can a child born outside the United States to foreigners who have DNA from an American citizen claim U.S. citizenship?
You can read more about this development by following this link:
Here is how the OHSU researchers’ method works: Scientists collected groups of unfertilized eggs from two female rhesus macaque monkeys (monkeys A and B). They then removed the chromosomes, which contain the genes found in the cell nucleus, from the eggs of monkey B, and then transplanted the nuclear genes from the eggs of monkey A into the eggs of monkey B. Then the eggs from monkey B, which now contained their own mitochondria but monkey A’s nuclear genes, were fertilized. The fertilized eggs developed into embryos that were implanted in surrogate monkeys.
The nuclear DNA from a patient’s egg carrying mitochondrial DNA mutations is removed and transplanted into an egg donated by a healthy donor which has also had its nuclear DNA removed. The reconstructed egg cell (oocyte) is then fertilized with the partner’s sperm and an embryo is transferred to a patient. The baby will be free of risk from maternal mitochondrial mutations, but yet the biological child of the parents. – Click to Enlarge
The initial implantation of two embryos resulted in the birth of healthy twin monkeys, nicknamed “Mito” and “Tracker” (in reference to the procedure used for imaging of mitochondria). These monkeys are the world’s first animals derived by spindle transfer.
Follow-up testing showed that there was little to no trace of cross-animal mitochondrial transfer using this procedure. This demonstrates that the researchers were successful in isolating nuclear genetic material from mitochondrial genetic material during the transfer process.
“In theory, this research has demonstrated that it is possible to use this therapy in mothers carrying mitochondrial DNA diseases so that we can prevent those diseases from being passed on to their offspring,” added Mitalipov. “We believe that with the proper governmental approvals, our work can rapidly be translated into clinical trials for humans, and, eventually, approved therapies.”
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