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Newcastle Gets OK to Perform Mitochondrial Replacement Therapy

Regulators in the UK have given the go-ahead to Newcastle Fertility Centre to use mitochondrial replacement therapy, the Guardian reports. The clinic applied in early December for permission to offer the treatment.

"It's great news," says Mary Herbert, a professor of reproductive biology there, according to the Guardian. "We hope to offer treatment to the first patients from the summer."

In this in vitro fertilization method, the nucleus from the mother's egg is removed and inserted into a nucleus-less donor egg, so that only the donor's mitochondria are typically present. Fertilization can occur either before or after the transfer. Through this approach, scientists say that the risk of passing on mitochondrial diseases can be minimized.

Parliament voted in 2015 to allow the approach, if the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority gave its OK. After a review, the agency gave its approval in December, paving the way for the UK to license the approach. The Associated Press notes that the license given to Newcastle only pertains to the clinic's ability to perform the technique; the clinic must still apply to HFEA to be able to treat individual patients. It adds that no patient has yet been approved for the procedure.

Still, the clinic says it hopes to be able to treat some 25 patients a year, according to the AP.