Bioethics Blogs

Mitochondrial replacement techniques – US-style

This post first appeared in BioNews on 15 February 2016.

On 3 February the US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine published a report on the ethical, social and policy considerations relating to mitochondrial replacement techniques (MRTs – a somewhat misleading description but one the authors defend in the report). The report was written by a committee convened to advise the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This line of accountability may be significant.

The committee’s report reflects many of the conclusions of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics’ 2012 report Novel techniques for the prevention of mitochondrial DNA disorders: an ethical review and subsequently embodied in UK legislation and HFEA licensing guidance.¹ At its centre is the concern to minimise any risk to a child who may be born as a result of the procedure. It recommends, accordingly, that the safety and efficacy of the procedure should be established through preclinical research, and that it should be resorted to only in cases in which there is an undisputed risk of transmitting a severe mitochondrial disease. As in the UK, the report recommends that the treatments should only take place in specialist centres, that patients should be given appropriate information and support, and that there should be long term follow up of any children born. It is also welcome that the report takes the position that MRTs do not constitute a treatment for disease but an expansion of the reproductive options available to those who know themselves to be at risk of passing on a severe, inherited mitochondrial disorder.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.