THE CREATION OF BABIES USING SPERM AND EGGS FROM THREE PEOPLE HAS MOVED A STEP CLOSER IN THE UK
From the FMS Global News Desk of Jeanne Hambleton
Posted on July 22, 2014 by Stone Hearth News
Source http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-James Gallagher
The creation of babies using sperm and eggs from three people has moved a step closer in the UK. The UK fertility regulator said there was no evidence that it would be unsafe, but called for extra checks
A public review into the three person IVF technique has been broadly supportive, says the Department of Health.
But a number of technical and scientific details need to be finalised before the plans go before Parliament.
The move would be restricted to mitochondrial disease, affecting one in 6,500 UK babies born each year. This may lead to muscle weakness, blindness, and heart failure.
Using the parents’ sperm and eggs plus an additional egg from a donor woman should prevent such conditions, say scientists at Newcastle University.
James Gallagher (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health- Health and science reporter, BBC News, wrote the UK looks set to become the first country to allow the creation of babies using DNA from three people, after the government backed the IVF technique.
It will produce draft regulations later this year and the procedure could be offered within two years.
Experts say three-person IVF could eliminate debilitating and potentially fatal mitochondrial diseases that are passed on from mother to child.
Prof Doug Turnbull, the director of the Wellcome Trust Centre for Mitochondrial Research at the university, said he was “delighted”.
He said: “This is excellent news for families with mitochondrial disease.
“This will give women who carry these diseased genes more reproductive choice and the opportunity to have children free of mitochondrial disease. I am very grateful to all those who have supported this work.”
The fine details of the regulations are still uncertain, yet it is expected to be for only the most severe cases.
It is also likely that children would have no right to know who the egg donor was and that any children resulting from the procedure would be monitored closely for the rest of their lives.
Sir John Tooke, the president of the Academy of Medical Sciences, said: “Introducing regulations now will ensure that there is no avoidable delay in these treatments reaching affected families once there is sufficient evidence of safety and efficacy.
“It is also a positive step towards ensuring the UK remains at the forefront of cutting-edge research in this area.”
Opponents say it is unethical and could set the UK on a “slippery slope”. They also argue that affected couples could adopt or use egg donors instead.
Mitochondria are the tiny, biological “power stations” that give the body energy. They are passed from a mother, through the egg, to her child.
Defective mitochondria affect one in every 6,500 babies. This can leave them starved of energy, resulting in muscle weakness, blindness, heart failure and death in the most extreme cases.
Research suggests that using mitochondria from a donor egg can prevent the diseases.
It is envisaged that up to 10 couples a year would benefit from the treatment.
However, it would result in babies having DNA from two parents and a tiny amount from a third donor as the mitochondria themselves have their own DNA.
Earlier this year, a public consultation by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) concluded there was “general support” for the idea and that there was no evidence that the advanced form of IVF was unsafe.
The chief medical officer for England, Prof Dame Sally Davies, said: “Scientists have developed ground-breaking new procedures which could stop these disease being passed on, bringing hope to many families seeking to prevent their future children inheriting them.
“It is only right that we look to introduce this life-saving treatment as soon as we can.”
She said there were “clearly some sensitive issues here” but said she was “personally very comfortable” with altering mitochondria.
Scientists have devised two techniques that allow them to take the genetic information from the mother and place it into the egg of a donor with healthy mitochondria.
An expert scientific panel has already suggested there is no evidence the procedure is unsafe but has asked for a number of further investigations to be carried out.
The government expects other details to be finalised in the next few months before the plans are legalised.
A public consultation received nearly 2,000 responses.
Ministers agreed that the regulatory body the Human Fertilisation Embryology Authority would consider each application from parents on a case-by-case basis.
Dr Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust, said: “There is broad public support for making mitochondrial replacement therapy available to patients.
“There is now no excuse for the Government not to table regulations for debate as soon as Parliament returns this autumn, so that the HFEA can licence clinics to treat affected families without delay once it is satisfied that any risks are acceptable.”
Sarah Norcross, director of the Progress Educational Trust, said: ‘While we welcome the Government’s decisions, we are disappointed by the time it has taken to reach this point in the process. A year ago, the Government promised a consultation in autumn 2013 which ultimately took place in March 2014. We note that the Government now aims to provide an update by early autumn 2014 – we hope that this is not similarly delayed.”
Dr David King, director of Human Genetics Alert said: “Looking back 15 years from now in the midst of a designer baby marketplace, people will see this as the moment when the crucial ethical line was crossed.
“A precautionary approach would demand much more evidence and the government would wait for that rather than rushing legislation through.”
It is thought scientists will be ready to create babies from three people in around two years, if it is made legal, a review says.
Changes to fertility regulations are being considered by government.
Mitochondria have their own tiny set of DNA, so any resulting children will have genetic material from three people.
The treatments would class as germ-line therapy, causing changes which would be passed down through the generations.
Ethical concerns have been raised and some campaign groups are worried it could be the thin end of the wedge to genetic modification of people.
Sarah Norcross, the director of the Progress Educational Trust, said: “The scientific review committee have given a considered thumbs up to allowing techniques to avoid the transmission of inherited mitochondrial disease to be used in clinic.
“We therefore urge the Government to press ahead and pass regulations to allow families blighted by mitochondrial disease to benefit as soon as possible.”
The New Babies
1) Two eggs are fertilised with sperm, creating an embryo from the intended parents and another from the donors 2) The pronuclei, which contain genetic information, are removed from both embryos but only the parents’ is kept 3) A healthy embryo is created by adding the parents’ pronuclei to the donor embryo, which is finally implanted into the womb
The result is a baby with genetic information from three people.
They would have more than 20,000 genes from their parents and 37 mitochondrial genes from a donor.
It is a change that would have ramifications through the generations as scientists would be altering human genetic inheritance.
Objections to the procedure have been raised ever since it was first mooted.
Dr David King, the director of Human Genetics Alert, said: “These techniques are unnecessary and unsafe and were in fact rejected by the majority of consultation responses.
“It is a disaster that the decision to cross the line that will eventually lead to a eugenic designer baby market should be taken on the basis of an utterly biased and inadequate consultation.”
One of the main concerns raised in the HFEA’s public consultation was of a “slippery slope” which could lead to other forms of genetic modification.
Draft regulations will be produced this year with a final version expected to be debated and voted on in Parliament during 2014.
Newcastle University is pioneering one of the techniques that could be used for three-person IVF.
CAN STRONG PARENTAL BOND PROTECT INFANTS DOWN TO THEIR DNA?
From the FMS Global News Desk of Jeanne Hambleton
Released: 22-Jul-2014 6:00 AM EDT
Source Newsroom: Tulane University
Newswise — Tulane University psychiatrist Dr. Stacy Drury has been given $2.4 million by the National Institutes of Health to test a provocative new theory – how well children bond with a parent in the first year of life leaves lasting genetic protection, potentially shielding them from disease risks well into adulthood.
Drury, a geneticist, is a pioneer in new research exploring the biological impacts of early adversity on children. She is the first scientist to show that extreme stress in infancy can biologically age a child by shortening the tips of chromosomes, known as telomeres. These caps keep chromosomes from shrinking when cells replicate. Shorter telomeres are linked to higher risks for heart disease, cognitive decline, diabetes and mental illness in adults.
“Telomeres are clearly a marker of the aging process, but they are increasingly being linked to stress,” says Drury, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and director of the Behavioral and Neurodevelopmental Genetics Laboratory at Tulane University School of Medicine.
“And what this suggests is that we have a marker that is in a cell that is sort of tracking the lasting impact of these negative early life experiences.”
She and Tulane scientists are recruiting 500 pregnant women to see if a responsive and sensitive parental bond can create a “biological buffer” in children that protects against telomere shortening and toxic stress.
The Tulane Infant Development Study will be the first to document what happens physiologically before and after infants develop “attachment,” the all-important bond with mothers or primary caregivers. More than 140 expectant mothers are enrolled. Researchers are working with area clinics and social service agencies to recruit participants during the next five years.
“This is all designed with a goal to gather information that is useful in improving health outcomes in our city,” she says. “If I just need to really strengthen that (parenting) relationship for the first six months of life and that is going to improve health outcomes for decades? That’s an easy sell, right? It’s also an easy sell to moms and caregivers.”
MEASURING NURTURE: STUDY SHOWS HOW “GOOD MOTHERING” HARDWIRES INFANT BRAIN
From the FMS Global News Desk of Jeanne Hambleton
Released: 17-Jul-2014 9:15 AM EDT
Source Newsroom: NYU Langone Medical Center Citations Current Biology
Newswise — By carefully watching nearly a hundred hours of video showing mother rats protecting, warming, and feeding their young pups, and then matching up what they saw to real-time electrical readings from the pups’ brains, researchers at NYU Langone Medical Center have found that the mother’s presence and social interactions — her nurturing role — directly molds the early neural activity and growth of her offsprings’ brain.
Reporting in the July 21 edition of the journal Current Biology, the NYU Langone team showed that the mother’s presence in the nest regulated and controlled electrical signaling in the infant pup’s brain.
Although scientists have known for decades that maternal-infant bonding affects neural development, the NYU Langone team’s latest findings are believed to be the first to show — as it is happening — how such natural, early maternal attachment behaviors, including nesting, nursing, and grooming of pups, impact key stages in postnatal brain development.
Researchers say the so-called slow-wave, neural signaling patterns seen during the initial phases of mammalian brain development — between age 12 and 20 days in rats — closely resembled the electrical patterns seen in humans for meditation and conscious and unconscious sleep-wake cycles, and during highly focused attention. These early stages are when permanent neural communication pathways are known to form in the infant brain, and when increasing numbers of nerve axons become sheathed, or myelinated, to speed neural signaling.
According to senior study investigator and neurobiologist Regina Sullivan, PhD, whose previous research in animals showed how maternal interactions influenced gene activity in the infant brain, the latest study offers an even more profound perspective on maternal caregiving.
“Our research shows how in mammals the mother’s sensory stimulation helps sculpt and mold the infant’s growing brain and helps define the role played by ‘nurturing’ in healthy brain development, and offers overall greater insight into what constitutes good mothering,” says Sullivan, a professor at the NYU School of Medicine and its affiliated Nathan S. Kline Institute for Psychiatric Research. “The study also helps explain how differences in the way mothers nurture their young could account, in part, for the wide variation in infant behavior among animals, including people, with similar backgrounds, or in uniform, tightly knit cultures.”
“There are so many factors that go into rearing children,” says lead study investigator Emma Sarro, PhD, a postdoctoral research fellow at NYU Langone. “Our findings will help scientists and clinicians better understand the whole-brain implications of quality interactions and bonding between mothers and infants so closely after birth, and how these biological attachment behaviors frame the brain’s hard wiring.”
For the study, a half-dozen rat mothers and their litters, of usually a dozen pups, were watched and videotaped from infancy for preset times during the day as they naturally developed. One pup from each litter was outfitted with a miniature wireless transmitter, invisibly placed under the skin and next to the brain to record its electrical patterns.
Specifically, study results showed that when rat mothers left their pups alone in the nest, infant cortical brain electrical activity, measured as local field potentials, jumped 50 percent to 100 percent, and brain wave patterns became more erratic, or desynchronous. Researchers point out that such periodic desynchronization is key to healthy brain growth and communication across different brain regions.
During nursing, infant rat pups calmed down after attaching themselves to their mother’s nipple. Brain activity also slowed and became more synchronous, with clearly identifiable electrical patterns.
Slow-wave infant brain activity increased by 30 percent, while readings of higher brain-wave frequencies decreased by 30 percent. Milk delivery led to intermittent bursts of electrical brain activity that were double or five times higher than before.
Similar spikes in rat brain activity of more than 100 percent were observed when mothers naturally groomed their infant pups.
However, these brain surges progressively declined during weaning, as infant pups gained independence from their mothers, leaving the nest and seeking food on their own as they grew past two weeks of age.
Additional experiments with a neural-signaling blocking agent, propranolol, confirmed that maternal effects were controlled in part by secretion of norepinephrine, a key neurotransmitter and hormone involved in most basic brain and body functions, including regulation of heart rate and cognition. Noradrenergic blocking in infant rats mostly dampened all previously observed effects induced by their mothers.
Sullivan says her team next plans similar experiments to look at how behavioral variations by the mother affect infant rat brain development, with the added goal of mapping any differences in brain development.
Long term, they say, they hope to develop diagnostic tools and therapies for people whose brains may have been impaired or simply underdeveloped during infancy.
Sarro says more research is also under way to investigate what other, nonadrenergic biological mechanisms might also be involved in controlling maternal sensory stimulation of the infant brain.
Funding support for the study was provided by the US National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the National Institute of Mental Health, both parts of the National Institutes of Health. Corresponding federal grant numbers are R01 DC009910 and R01 MH0901451.
In addition to Sullivan and Sarro, Donald Wilson, PhD, also at NYU Langone, served as co-investigator for this study.