Press Office


Mitochondrial plans move forward


Plans to legalise the use of new techniques, developed by Newcastle University, to prevent mothers passing on serious mitochondrial diseases to their children, are to proceed, the Government has announced.

In a statement on their website the Department of Health has reacted to the results of a public consultation.

Mitochondrial disease is passed from mother to child through faults in the mitochondrial DNA. It is estimated that 1 in 6,500 children are born every year in the UK with a serious mitochondrial DNA disorder.

Serious mitochondrial disease can have a devastating effect on families, including the premature death of children, painful, debilitating and disabling suffering, long-term ill-health and low quality of life.

A consultation on proposed new regulations resulted in more than 1,850 responses. Following consideration of these the department has agreed to:

•keep the definition of the mitochondrial donation techniques as they are set out in the draft proposals

•continue with plans that the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) would have to be satisfied that there is both a particular risk of mitochondrial abnormality and a significant risk the person will develop a serious illness or condition

•the HFEA will consider each application on a case-by-case basis

•only non-identifying information about the mitochondrial donor will be released to people born following mitochondrial donation when they reach age 16

•clarification will be given to the consent requirements around the use and storage of eggs and embryos used in the mitochondrial donation techniques

•further consider the recommendations of the Expert Panel, refine the draft regulations to take account of changes identified during the consultation, and discuss with the HFEA an appropriate approval process

The Department for Health has said it will consider the timing of the regulations in the light of these actions and aim to provide an update by early autumn.

Professor Doug Turnbull, part of the team who have developed the technique at Newcastle University, said: “We are pleased that the Government is still supportive of this important technique to prevent the transmission of serious mitochondrial disease. We would welcome a firm timetable for this to be tabled for debate in Parliament and become a legal treatment. We have patients waiting who could greatly benefit from this new IVF technique.”

published on: 23 July 2014