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@NEJM Ask the Authors and Experts: Mitochondrial Donation — How Many Women Could Benefit?

New techniques based on in vitro fertilization (IVF) have allowed "mitochondrial replacement," or the ability to create an embryo with genetic material from three different people, resulting in inheritable genetic modification. This has the potential to help women with genetic diseases caused by inherited mutations in the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA).

On February 3, 2015, Britain became the first country to allow a "three-parent IVF technique." Currently, several research teams in the US are requesting regulatory approval for the technique. On January 27, 2015, a newly appointed committee of the Institute of Medicine held the first in a series of meetings to fulfill the FDA's request to consider the ethical and social policy issues raised by "genetic modification of eggs and zygotes to prevent transmission of mitochondrial disease." Some concerned critics see this as one large step towards creating designer babies.

In their recent Letter to the Editor, "Mitochondrial Donation — How Many Women Could Benefit?," that was published on January 28, 2015 in The New England Journal of Medicine, the authors present data on how many women could potentially benefit from this new technique. The authors found that 2,473 women of child-bearing age in the United Kingdom, and 12,423 women in the US are at risk for transmitting mtDNA disease. Allowing mitochrondrial replacement could benefit 152 women per year in the United Kingdom and 778 women per year in the US.

What do we think? What are the concerns? Should we allow 3-Person IVF in the US?

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