A set of twin monkeys, Mito and Tracker, are the source of great hope for the eradication of diseases resulting from the transfer of unhealthy mitochondrial DNA. With 150 known diseases being spread from mother to child as a result of this DNA, researchers have developed a way to strip the diseased portion of the DNA.
During spindle transfer, the female chromosomes are separated from the unhealthy mitochondrial DNA. These chromosomes are transferred to an egg that has been stripped of all chromosomes, but left with healthy mitochondrial DNA. The result was a healthy set of twin monkeys with healthy DNA and no genetic diseases.
"We believe this discovery in nonhuman primates can rapidly be translated into human therapies aimed at preventing inherited disorders passed from mothers to their children through the mitochondrial DNA, such as certain forms of cancer, diabetes, infertility, myopathies and neurodegenerative diseases.", says research author Dr. Shoukhrat Mitalipov.
After the twin monkeys were born, tests concluded that very little to no traces of the genetic diseases were found. Doctors hope these findings will eventually lead to healthy babies being born to mothers with mitochondrial DNA based diseases. Due to the fact that much of this study dealt with stem cell research, debates over the ethicality of human studies could hinder future study.
Source: Nature 2009