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Government publishes draft regulations on Newcastle mitochondrial technique

The Government today launched a consultation on draft regulations for the use of new techniques to prevent mothers passing on serious mitochondrial diseases to their children. 

The pioneering work, carried out by scientists at Newcastle University, is aimed at helping an estimated 1 in 200 children born every year in the UK who have some form of mitochondrial DNA disorder. These disorders, including heart disease, liver disease, loss of muscle co-ordination and other serious conditions that can have a devastating impact on the people who inherit it and can be fatal. However, at present, mitochondrial donation techniques to prevent the transmission of serious mitochondrial disease are prohibited.

A comprehensive public dialogue and consultation by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) last year indicated that overall, the British public are keen to support mitochondrial donation treatment. As a result, the Government announced that it would consult on regulations to allow these techniques in treatment. The intention of the consultation is to gather views about the draft regulations from all those with an interest.

Professor Doug Turnbull, Professor of Neurology, Newcastle University, said: "I am delighted that the Government has published the draft regulations. This is very good news for patients with mitochondrial DNA disease and an important step in the prevention of transmission of serious mitochondrial disease."

Dr Jeremy Farrar, Director of the Wellcome Trust, who funded much of the work, said: "It is now almost a year since a major public consultation found broad support for the use of new IVF techniques for preventing mitochondrial diseases, so we are pleased that the Government has now published draft regulations that would permit this. Once further public consultation on the detail of these regulations is complete, we urge the Government to move swiftly so that Parliament can debate the regulations at the earliest opportunity and families affected by these devastating disorders can begin to benefit."

The consultation will run for 12 weeks until 21 May 2014.

published on: 27 February 2014