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Australia OKs Mitochondrial Donations

Australia has become the second country to allow mitochondrial donation, Wired reports.

In mitochondrial donation, which is also known as mitochondrial replacement or three-person in vitro fertilization, the nucleus from one human egg is removed and transferred to a donor egg that lacks a nucleus but contains mitochondria. That combined egg is then fertilized. The approach could enable couples to avoid passing on mitochondrial diseases such as Leigh syndrome, which are often fatal, Wired adds.

The UK began allowing mitochondrial donation in 2015 and in 2018 approved the procedure for two women with mitochondrial variants that cause myoclonic epilepsy with ragged red fibers syndrome, a neurodegenerative disorder.

According to Wired, Australia recently passed a law allowing the procedure, though it will first be available at just one fertility clinic as part of a clinical trial. That trial, it says, likely won't begin for a year or two and is expected to last 10 to 12 years, and participants will have to undergo counseling on the potential risks and be approved by a board of experts.