22 Jan 2012

New research into hereditary diseases

2:32 pm on 22 January 2012

However, the technique is highly controversial because it involves the transfer of DNA.

Scientists in Britain say a number of hereditary diseases could be eradicated within a generation with new research they want to carry out.

The research, focuses on diseases known as Mitochondria which can be passed only from mother to child.

Approximately 1 in 5000 babies is born with inherited defects in their mitochondrial DNA, the effects of which can be very severe, or even fatal.

However, the BBC reports the technique the scientists want to use is highly controversial because it involves the transfer of DNA.

Scientists believe they have found a way to substitute the defective mitochondria and hopefully prevent the child from developing a disease.

They take two eggs, one from the mother and another from a donor.

The nucleus of the donor egg is removed, leaving the rest of the egg contents, including the mitochondria, and is replaced with the nucleus from the mother's egg.

The resulting embryo has properly functioning mitochondria from the donor, and should, in theory, be healthy.

Public opinion will help decide if the technique is to be used.

Science minister David Willetts said: "Scientists have made an important and potentially life-saving discovery in the prevention of mitochondrial disease.

"However, as with all developments in cutting-edge science, it is vital that we listen to the public's views before we consider any change in the law allowing it to be used."

The BBC reports it is hoped the consultation will be complete by the end of this year.