Ménage à trois

Ménage à trois

A test tube baby in the near future could have three parents: two moms and a dad. In addition to nuclear material from one mother and one father, there is now an option to have mitochondrial DNA from another mother.

Mitochondria, the powerhouses of cells, carry their own DNA and are only passed to our offspring via the maternal egg (that’s because sperm are too tiny to contain much more than DNA in their little heads!). But mitochondria often carry devastating genetic defects that can be fatal, as high as 1 in 4000. They are also implicated in hereditary forms of multiple sclerosis and Parkinsons Disease. Now, in vitro technology allows us to escape from this mitochondrial burden.

Nuclei plucked from donor eggs were injected into healthy eggs that had their own nuclei removed. Next, the chimeric egg was fertilized by sperm to grow into an embryo. Earlier experiments in Rhesus monkeys were recently repeated with human eggs, although the human embryos were not allowed to complete development past the 100 cell stage. If the method is approved by the FDA, they could go on to make babies with healthy mitochondria from “at risk” mothers.

Read more: http://www.nature.com/news/dna-swap-technology-almost-ready-for-fertility-clinic-1.11651

Image: Coloured scanning electron micrograph (SEM) of sectioned mitochondria from ovarian cells, from Science Photo Library. Mitochondria are in pink, filled with tubular fingers called cristae. Surrounding them in yellow, is the network of ER membranes. Details here: http://www.sciencephoto.com/media/214963/view

#scienceeveryday  

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42 Responses to Ménage à trois

  1. Rajini Rao says:


    Haha, exactly what I thought when I wrote the phrase another mother 😉

  2. Rajini Rao says:


    Six years ago in monkeys, only now in humans. The human embryos appear to be more delicate. Many of the fertilizations did not progress, but the ones that did seemed to be normal, at least until the 100 cell (blastocyst) stage. The Rhesus monkey  babies turned out fine although they should be followed longer to make sure that they can have normal babies in turn.


  3. Thanks for the update Rajini Rao  I appreciate the humor in the french title, too (,,, but perhaps not so much in the reference to… ‘their little heads”)  Lol  J/k 🙂

  4. Rajini Rao says:


    The “little heads” was an additional provocation, thanks for noticing John Christopher 😀


  5. I figured as much… you certainly know how to get our attention Rajini Rao 🙂


  6. Then life really begins to be fun!  Think of all those that study genealogy? 


  7. OK to use “mea culpa” instead, Rajini Rao (… after starting in French)   :)))

  8. Rajini Rao says:


    John Christopher , 50 coups de fouet avec une nouille humide? 🙂


  9. Hmmm.  I don’t really speak French  Rajini Rao  but this sounds a lot like the old song… Voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir?  (Should be more fun than playing with wet noodles)  :))

  10. Rajini Rao says:


    We can all be French with Google Translate, non? 🙂


    Is this the one: Labelle – Voulez Vous Coucher Avec Moi Ce Soir 1975 (ZDF Disco)


  11. You got it (on both counts)  🙂


  12. Je ne sais pas, je ne pense pas que la femme sera vers le bas avec la chose deux mères, mais je suis prètent. 🙂 

  13. Rajini Rao says:


    Haha, a worthy experiment in the name of science Sy Bernot !


  14. I know it’s a little sensationalized, but I like to tell my students they are actually more closely related to their mothers due to mitochondrial DNA, it’s a good hook to start that conversation.   I can now add some new information to this discussion, I just love the word “chimera”.

  15. Rajini Rao says:


    BiologyCorner , your students are going to love this: A Biologist’s Mother’s Day Song


    Lyrics included 🙂


    I love the word chimera too. I used to pronounce it “shimera” outside of science..

  16. Tom Lee says:


    The title of your post would certainly stimulate one’s cusriosity. It’s an interesting finding. Nice post!


    Ménage à trois reminds a new French book,  _Entre deux feux_ , dishes the dirt on the bitter feud between President Hollande’s former partner Ségolène Royal and first lady Valérie Trierweiler. The juicy details of the drama threaten to engulf France’s president and have the French public hooked. Any topic that has that title would certainly attract readers! 🙂


    How are you doing up there dealing with Sandy?

  17. Rajini Rao says:


    Tom Lee 🙂


    I remember some of that drama during their Presidential election. Wasn’t the former live in girlfriend running for President too? It sounds like a good read, but I’m guessing it’s only published in French.

  18. Tom Lee says:


    You’re right, Ségolène Royal was running against Sarkozy at the time, If I remember correctly. The book only pusblished in French as far as I know. 

  19. Sinya Nakata says:


    It is impressed to be colored to a cell.


    Will this be because roles are different each?


  20. Thanks a lot Rajini Rao …..It is a treat to read all of your post and especially the summary that you provide…..Thanks a lot once again


  21. Sinya Nakata The colorization is added by humans after imaging. It’s added to better emphasize the individual structures.

  22. pinto xavier says:


    so   mytochon.  can be replaced  for ther  childrens  without affecting  paternity .?. is  this  in a  legal  issue  now’?


  23. Just out of curiosity, I realise that mitochondrial dna is always inherited from the mother. But can’t it – in this case – be extracted from the some other non-gamete cell thus enabling paternal inheritance? 

  24. Rajini Rao says:


    Vishakh Thomas , that’s an interesting question.


    If the embryo was cloned entirely from paternal cells, everything would be from the father. Other than that, it would be difficult to remove all mitochondria from the egg since they are small and numerous. Equally difficult would be isolating mitos from a paternal non-gamete cell, although just a few should be enough to seed the egg (they would divide and increase in number, eventually). Some sort of fusion event between the egg and a paternal cell lacking nucleus would infuse paternal mitochondria as well. In the end, however, the paternal mitos would still be from the grandmother! 🙂


  25. When I was studying biology I I came to discover that the mitochondria were a sort of assembly line, showed cut because of the


    microscopic technique. I think,as you,probably,that they are continuous.


  26. Rajini Rao Interesting, Thanks!

  27. pinto xavier says:


    @rajini:(pardon  i have no  back ground knowledge in biology past  10th standard)


    My doubt  is,   the way  my  body cells  make  energy and the physical strength  which i can  produce depends on  my mothers mitochondrial health?  so we can judge the  health   of a   offspring  just   by observing  mothers strength at the  first impression?

  28. Rajini Rao says:


    pinto xavier , not really- a child’s health depends on much more than just the mother’s strength! Mitochondria are important for energy production at the level of cells. However, when taking the entire body into consideration, there is also muscle mass and development, aerobic ability, nutrition and so on.

  29. pinto xavier says:


    so aerobic  and  nutritional sides for a  person   are ok then  we proceed to   judge  the mitochondria  performance so  mitochondria   not  alone the   responsible ..! is it?

  30. Arnav Kalra says:


    This is nice. Urmila Sharma 


  31. This is the time of FUSION….. N No. of Mom & Paa will come soon !!!


  32. I really like women being mothers, because is the natural fact of their existence. But I had becoming aware that being MY mother is an woman irresponsible behavior !  I have thought that women can be mothers, but no MY mother ! Although I am proud of the mitochondria inherited .They really work very good ! 

  33. Rajini Rao says:


    On Mothers Day, at least you can thank your mother for your mitochondria, Alfonso Ramirez 🙂 I hope your father was the responsible one!


  34. The irresponsible is not for the sexual behavior. It is for the  fact I am now. 


  35. All these experiments are going to produce a disaster in future, I seriously think so….

  36. Rajini Rao says:


    No, not really Avinash Dixit . It’s easy to be afraid when one does not understand science.


  37. well.Technically not as much as you Rajini Rao, but  the results to disturb the Nature’s originality (wch we say modifictn) are not positive but harmful in the longer run….

  38. Rajini Rao says:


    We disturb Nature’s originality every time we do a surgery or transplant, treat a disease with modern medicine, use vaccines, breed better crops or design new technology for our lives and work. Let’s stop all that modification go back to the cave man age, shall we? 😉


  39. plz proceed……!


    The changes at genetic level are not producing positive effects..like in vegetables & seeds..


    (prhps i hv dstrbd ur natural instinct….now C the result….. 

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