In 2016, genetic material from three people was used for the first time to start a pregnancy, in a bid to keep the child from inheriting a disease via his mother’s mitochondrial DNA. The technique used to create a so-called three-parent embryo involves combining mitochondria from one woman’s egg and the nucleus of another’s, then fertilizing it with sperm and implanting it in the uterus. Now, a Spanish company, Embryotools, has announced it is conducting the first clinical trial of the technique to combat infertility and that the project has yielded its first pregnancy.
The technique “may represent a new era in the IVF field, as it could give these patients chances of having a child genetically related to them,” Nuno Costa-Borges, Embryotools’s cofounder, tells STAT.
STAT notes that many countries’ policies on three-parent embryos are unclear, and some, including the US, ban their use. Embryotools is partnering with a fertility clinic to conduct its trial in Greece, which permits creating and implanting the embryos. According to a company statement, the pregnant woman is one of 25 participants in the study, but is the only one so far to have an embryo implanted. Prior to the study, the 32-year-old had undergone two operations for endometriosis and four failed cycles of IVF.
The trial is based on the premise that the mitochondria in eggs is at fault in some cases of infertility. The Embryotools team uses a technique it calls spindle transfer to remove the nucleus from a donor egg and replace it with the nucleus from the intended mother’s egg. “It is reasonable to hypothesize that mitochondrial replacement therapy may be beneficial for age-related infertility,” Paula Amato, an OB-GYN at Oregon Health and Science University who is not involved in the trial, tells STAT.