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Pattaya Daily News

29 June 2010 :: 03:06:21 am 18305

Can DNA Breakthrough Eliminate Devastating Inherited Conditions

Scientists believe they may have finally had a breakthrough in the prevention of inherited disorders through DNA.
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They believe devastatingly inherited diseases may be prevented using a pioneering technique to swap DNA between eggs, which could open up possibilities of avoiding a range of disorders which can lead to early childhood deaths.

Approximately one in 6,500 children in the UK is severely affected by inherited disorders which can cause a number of ailments like muscle weakness, blindness, heart and liver failure, diabetes and learning disabilities.

These diseases are linked to genetic deformities in ‘mitochondria’ a component of cells that act like batteries, generating energy and is passed only from mothers to their children.

There are no curable treatments available for ‘mitochondrial’ disease at the moment, with Mothers who have a family history of the disorder facing the choice of having an affected child or no child at all.

The new technique which has been developed at the University of Newcastle raises the hope of ensuring a baby does not inherit the malfunctioning mitochondrial DNA.

The technique involves transferring nuclear DNA inherited from a child’s parent to a donor egg carrying its own, properly functioning, mitochondria.

”What we’ve done is like changing the battery on a laptop,” said Professor Doug Turnbull, one of the study leaders. ”The energy supply now works properly, but none of the information on the hard drive has been changed ensuring a child born using this method would have correctly functioning mitochondria, but in every other respect would get all their genetic information from their father and mother.”

Mitochondrial DNA only affects the internal working of cells, not all the characteristics that make a person a recognized individual.

Compared with an estimated 23,000 in the cell nucleus, the mitochondria contain around 13 genes.

Members of the Newcastle scientific team use a DNA transfer technique similar to that employed in cloning.

A total of 80 embryos were created using the technique which were allowed to develop for six to eight days until they consisted of balls of around 100 cells called blastocysts.

In accordance with research licenses granted by the Human Fertility and Embryology Authority (HFEA), the embryos were later destroyed, but blastocysts are often used in IVF (In-Vitro Fertilisation) treatment to help women have children.

In a few cases, a minute amount of mitochondrial DNA was carried over to the new egg however scientists believe it would not be enough to cause an affect.

Prof Turnbull said: ”This is a very exciting development with immense potential to help families at risk from mitochondrial diseases. We have no way of curing these diseases at the moment, but this technique could allow us to prevent the diseases occurring in the first place. It is important that we do all we can to help these families and give them the chance to have healthy children, something most of us take for granted.”

Current law prevents fertility treatment embodying such techniques, but the Human Fertility and Embryology Act is flexible enough to allow Government permission for them in the future.

In the near future this technique may help in giving parents the choice to have a healthy child and end the tragic cycle that some families go through.

The research has been chiefly funded by the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign, the Medical Research Council and Wellcome Trust.

Sir Mark Walport, director of the Wellcome Trust, said: ”This is exciting research that could lead to the major clinical advance of preventing devastating mitochondrial diseases by curing the disease in fertilised eggs.”

The team used eggs which were unsuitable for fertility treatment such as those with one or three pronuclei instead of the normal two with one in 10 fertilised eggs having to be discarded during IVF treatment because of this and other problems.

The research is published today in the journal Nature.

Mitochondria is known as the “powerhouse of the cell” because they produce ATP from sugar and other organic molecules. The name means “thread bodies” about the same size as a bacterium. They have two membranes with the inner membrane folded to form partial partitions in the cavity. The enzymes needed for cellular respiration are found in the mitochondria of the cell. They are found in all eukaryotic cells.

Photo : Internet   Category : Health

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