By Alice Park
Researchers at the Institute of Life in Athens, Greece announced that a healthy baby boy was born on Tuesday morning to a 32-year-old woman who had experienced several failed cycles of IVF.
The six-pound boy, who the doctors say in a statement is healthy, was born using a technique called maternal spindle transfer. In the procedure, the grouped-together DNA from a mother’s egg was removed and placed inside a donor egg from another woman, which had been emptied of its DNA. The donor’s egg with the mother’s genes was then fertilized and developed into an embryo that was transferred for pregnancy.
The technique takes advantage of the fact that something in the mother’s egg was preventing a viable embryo from forming when it was fertilized. Any number of factors could contribute to the problem, including poor quality of the egg to deficiencies in essential factors that a fertilized egg needs to begin dividing into an embryo.
One of those factors is mitochondria, which are found in every human cell and lie outside of the nuclear DNA that contains a cell’s genes. With maternal spindle transfer, the donor’s mitochondria, along with other factors in the egg, presumably make it possible for the egg to then be fertilized and develop into an embryo.
“We are now in a position to make it possible for women with multiple IVF failures or rare mitochondrial genetic diseases to have a healthy child,” said Dr. Panagiotis Psathas, president of the Institute, in a statement.