Mitochondrial dna diseases are rare genetic disorders, which can have a devastating effect on the patients’ health and well-being. There is no cure for such diseases, although recent experiments suggest that there may be a way to prevent them by genetically altering the eggs or embryos through a procedure known as mitochondrial donation. However, such a procedure not only raises serious safety and ethical concerns, but legal challenges as well, since it involves germline gene modification, which until recently was not legal in the uk or elsewhere. In February 2015, the British Parliament amended the relevant legislation to allow such a procedure, making the uk the first state to openly challenge the global policy on germline gene modification. The article presents the scientific background to the procedure and discusses the regulatory challenges brought by the first case of its legalisation.
Human Fertilization and Embryology Act1990http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1990/37/contents retrieved 23 April 2015.
Human Fertilization and Embryology Act2008http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2008/22/contents retrieved 23 April 2015.
See: P. Amato et al.‘Three-parent in vitro fertilization: gene replacement for the prevention of inherited mitochondrial diseases’Fertility and Sterility101(1) (2014) 31-35 at 31; Wolf et al. supra note 5; J.P. Burgstaller et al. ‘Mitochondrial dna disease and developmental implications for reproductive strategies’ Molecular Human Reproduction 21(1) (2015) 11-22 at 11.
M. Tachibana et al.‘Mitochondrial gene replacement in primate offspring and embryonic stem cells’Nature461(7262) (2009) 367-372 at 367. Generally heteroplasmy mutations are the cause of most frequent and severe mtDNA diseases. Supra note 7.
See: Baylissupra note 52 at 533; Ishii supra note 52 at 154.
As of April201529member states of the Council of Europe were parties to the Convention with 6 more member states signing but not ratifying it. Meanwhile the Convention is open for signature and accession not only to all 47 member states of the Council of Europe but to Australia Canada Holy See Japan Mexico the usa and the eu. A more detailed information on the participation is available at http://conventions.coe.int/Treaty/Commun/ChercheSig.asp?NT=164&CM=&DF=&CL=ENG retrieved 23 April 2015.