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Mitochondria variants battle for cell supremacy

DNA features give some organelles advantage in 3-parent baby procedures

1:00pm, November 30, 2016
needle with spindle and egg

BATTERY SWAP A technique to suck a chromosome-containing structure called the spindle (white, in needle) out of a mother’s egg and place it in a donor egg emptied of its chromosomes but with healthy mitochondria can help prevent mitochondrial diseases.

Some mitochondria naturally have an advantage over others in the battle for cellular domination, a new study shows. The finding could make procedures for producing “three-parent babies” safer.

Doctors carrying out DNA-swapping techniques to prevent mothers from passing mitochondrial diseases to their children should choose egg donors whose mitochondria can hold their own against other varieties or even outcompete them, researchers propose November 30 in Nature.  Such a precaution might prevent small numbers of faulty mitochondria — energy-generating organelles — from taking over cells.

More than 750 babies are estimated to be born in the United States each year with mutations in their mitochondrial DNA that may lead to disabling or fatal diseases. Researchers have developed techniques to swap DNA from a mother’s egg with faulty mitochondria into a donor egg

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