November 8, 2016 – Heritable Concerns


Anchor lead:  What are some of the considerations when it comes to genetic manipulation of people? Elizabeth Tracey reports

Eggs of women are similar to the eggs most of us know- they have a nucleus that is like a yolk, and a cytoplasm like the white, but they have two types of DNA. That in the yolk is called nuclear while that in the white is called mitochondrial, and now a baby has been born from a recombination of two women’s eggs.  Jeffrey Kahn, director of the Berman Institute of Bioethics at Johns Hopkins, explains some concerns.

Kahn: Of course they have to be safe, and that’s where some of the ethical issues start to come up. We don’t know what will happen when you combine one woman’s mitochondrial DNA with  another woman’s nuclear DNA. That interaction didn’t occur in nature.  Now it turns out that there’s only a limited of subgroups of mitochondrial DNA in the world’s population, and so one way to avoid what might be a mismatch is to say the donor’s haplotype, as its called, has to match the woman who wants to have a child’s haplotype.  :31

Kahn says strategies do exist to minimize risks while such interventions are attempted.  At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.