The Department of Health today announced plans to draft regulations that pave the way for new treatments to prevent the transmission of inherited mitochondrial DNA disorders. The Chief Medical Officer, Dame Sally Davies, said that draft regulations will be published for consultation later this year, and a Parliamentary debate will follow in 2014. Just over a year ago the Council published a report which explored the ethical issues raised by the possible use of these IVF-based techniques, which could prevent serious genetic disorders being passed on from a mother to her child. The report aimed to ensure that the ethical considerations had been fully aired and explored in time to inform a public consultation run by the HFEA during autumn 2012. The Council’s report concluded that the techniques offer an ethically acceptable treatment option for families affected by mitochondrial disorders, provided further research shows they are likely to be sufficiently safe and effective, and that families are offered appropriate information and support. It also states that any treatment offered would need to be provided under strict regulation, and that long term follow up of any children born via this method would be crucial. As we reported in March, the HFEA’s advice to Ministers following their own consultation chimed with these conclusions of the Council’s report. Links: Read the Department of Health press release View highlights of media coverage about the Council’s report Read the Council’s June 2012 press release about the launch of the report

What are inherited mitochondrial DNA disorders?

Maternally-inherited mitochondrial disorders are progressive illnesses that can cause a wide spectrum of severe health problems including heart and other major organ failures, stroke, dementia, blindness, deafness and premature death. There is currently no cure for these disorders, but researchers are developing new variations of IVF techniques that aim to replace damaged mitochondria by using part of a donated egg from a healthy individual. The intention is to allow women carrying disorders of mitochondrial DNA the chance to have healthy children that are genetically related to them, but born free of those disorders. The techniques are currently only permitted in research settings, but existing legislation means that Parliament could vote to allow these techniques to be used in treatment.