05:18am Saturday 19 October 2019

Pioneering IVF technique supported by public

After a six-month public consultation, the Human Fertility and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has today announced its findings which showed general public support for mitochondria replacement being made available to families at risk of passing on a serious mitochondrial disease. The HFEA will now pass these recommendations to the Government.

A team of researchers at Newcastle University, leading on the development of the technique in humans, aims to prevent the transmission of maternally inherited mitochondrial disorders. Mitochondria are required to produce the energy that powers our cells, therefore vital for all the major organs of our body to function properly.

Around one in 6,500 children are born with severe mitochondrial diseases, which include muscular weakness, blindness, fatal heart failure, liver failure, learning disability and diabetes that can lead to death in early infancy.

Parliament must now decide whether those who carry the risk of transmitting mitochondrial disease will be able to be treated in the UK. 

Reacting to today’s announcement by the HFEA, Professor Doug Turnbull, Professor of Neurology and Director of the Wellcome Trust Centre for Mitochondrial Research at Newcastle University said:

“Mitochondrial DNA disease runs in families and there is no cure. The techniques we are working on here in Newcastle, could help hundreds of women have healthy children.

“We are very grateful for the detailed public engagement exercise carried out by the HFEA and welcome the supportive views of most of the public.

“We understand that more research is required but believe it is crucial that the Government moves now to draft the regulations so that mitochondrial patients in the UK will have access to this treatment.”

Professor Mary Herbert, Professor of Reproductive Biology at Newcastle University said:  “We are currently working towards refining and perfecting the techniques with the aim of providing a safe and effective treatment to reduce the risk of mitochondrial DNA disease in the children of affected families. 

“It is really important that the regulatory and legal process required to permit the use of these techniques in clinical practice is progressed in parallel with the science”

Professor Alison Murdoch, Honorary Professor of Reproductive Medicine, added: “The next step is for Government to draft the regulations needed under the Human Fertility and Embryology Act so that an application can, when appropriate, be submitted to the HFEA to permit treatment.

“We welcome the HFEA’s recommendation that mitochondria donors should be thought of as tissue donors, protecting the anonymity of the donor.

“Although further discussions will be needed, we believe that the reports submitted today are a very positive step towards achieving suitable oversight for these new treatments. “

This video explains why mitochondrial transfer is so important for patients.


published on: 20th March 2013

Key Facts:

  • Newcastle University is a Russell Group University
  • We rank in the top 20 of UK universities in The Sunday Times 2013 University Guide
  • Amongst our peers Newcastle is:
    • 10th in the UK for student satisfaction
    • In the UK’s top 12 for research power in Science and Engineering
  • 93% of our students are in a job or further training within six months of graduating (HEFCE 2012)
  • We have a world-class reputation for research excellence and are spearheading three major societal challenges that have a significant impact on global society. These themes are: Ageing and Health, Sustainability, and Social Renewal
  • Newcastle University is the first UK university to establish a fully owned international branch campus for medicine at its NUMed Campus in Malaysia which opened in 2011
  • Our International students put Newcastle University in world’s top 12 (ISB 2011)

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