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Cloning-like method targets mitochondrial diseases

Providing healthy ‘power plants’ in donor eggs appears feasible in humans

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A technique that puts one woman’s nuclear DNA into another woman’s donor egg cell may be feasible for correcting inherited diseases caused by faulty cellular power sources. The technique has already produced healthy baby rhesus monkeys, and now it raises the possibility of preventing mitochondrial diseases in thousands of people each year.

Mitochondria, energy-producing organelles inside cells, carry circles of DNA important for the power plants’ function. Mutations of the mitochondrial DNA, which is passed to offspring directly by their mothers, can cause diseases that often affect energy-greedy organs such as the brain, heart, muscles, pancreas and kidneys with varying severity. An estimated 1,000 to 4,000 U.S. babies are born each year with mitochondrial diseases.

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