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Ready for Transfers

Doctors in the UK are seeking permission to offer mitochondrial replacement therapy, the Guardian reports.

The approach enables mothers with a mitochondrial disease to avoid passing the condition on to her children by transferring the nucleus from her egg to a nucleus-less egg from a woman without mitochondrial disease. That way, healthy mitochondria are passed on.

The UK Parliament voted last year to allow mitochondrial replacement therapy, if the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority determined it was safe to do so, the New Scientist adds. It and the Guardian note that the HFEA released a scientific review that it commissioned yesterday that cautiously supports the clinical use of the therapy for children at risk of inheriting mitochondrial diseases and recommends the technique's approval. According to New Scientist, the final decision will be made December 15.

A team at the Newcastle Fertility Centre is poised to offer the treatment, if approved, the Guardian reports. Newcastle's Mary Herbert and her colleagues have identified patients for whom such therapy may be appropriate and once the technique is approved, they plan to apply for a license.

"My own belief is that it should be an option that is offered to these patients as one of their reproductive choices," Newcastle University's Doug Turnbull, a pioneer of the approach, tells the Guardian. "We can't say that it abolishes the risk of transmitting mitochondrial disease, but it is a strategy to reduce the risk."

A baby boy was born earlier this year to a Jordanian couple who underwent mitochondrial replacement therapy in Mexico that was performed by a New York-based team. The approach hasn't been approved for use in the US, and the baby is doing well, doctors said.