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  • Context (BS): Understanding Mitochondrial Donation.
  • Mitochondrial donation is an IVF-based technique that replaces the faulty mitochondrial DNA in the patient’s eggs with healthy mitochondrial DNA from a donor egg.
  • Mitochondrial donation techniques allow a reproductive clinic to create an embryo which contains the:
    • nuclear DNA from a man and a woman (the prospective mother)
    • mitochondria in an egg donated by another woman (the mitochondrial donor).

A diagram of mitochondria Description automatically generated

Credits: Science News

  • It minimises the risk of a prospective mother transmitting mitochondrial disease to her child.
  • It cannot cure people with existing mitochondrial disease or prevent mitochondrial disease caused by a mutation in nuclear DNA.

Mitochondria

  • Mitochondria are a type of membrane-bound organelle found in a cell’s cytoplasm, often nicknamed the “powerhouse” or “battery” of a cell due to their critical role in energy production.
  • While much of our DNA is stored in the cell nucleus, mitochondria are unique organelles in that their DNA is stored in a circular chromosome, which is inherited through the maternal line. This genetic material is essential for mitochondria to function properly.

Mitochondrial disease

  • Mitochondrial disease (or Mito) is a group of diseases that affect mitochondria’s capacity to produce the energy organs need to function properly.
  • There are two kinds of mitochondrial disease:
    1. One is brought by faulty genes in the nuclear DNA, which makes us who we are and is passed down from one parent to another.
    2. The other is brought on by faulty genes in the mitochondrial DNA. Mito caused by faulty mitochondrial DNA is passed down through the mother.
  • Faulty mitochondria can cause inherited conditions such as fatal heart problems, liver failure, brain disorders, blindness and muscular dystrophy. It is a progressive condition that gets worse over time.
  • Currently, there is no effective treatment for mitochondrial diseases, though the symptoms are treated to improve the patient’s quality of life.
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