IntroductionCesagen's Dr. Rebecca Dimond comments on Nuffield Council on Bioethics report
On Tuesday June 12th 2012 the Nuffield Council on Bioethics released its much anticipated report ‘Novel techniques for the prevention of mitochondrial DNA disorders: an ethical review’.
The aim of the review was to garner expert and public opinion on the ethical implications of techniques involving mitochondria donation, pioneered by Professor Turnbull and his team at Newcastle, which could enable women with mitochondrial disease to have children without the disease. The report found that although these techniques can be considered ‘germline therapies’ they do not raise ethical objections.
This is an important landmark and raises concerns about the ‘slippery slope’ leading to modification of the nuclear germline. Geoff Watts, chair of the working party defended the findings at the launch, saying that their findings were significant and that extended debate would be needed in future.
The report concluded “we believe that if these novel techniques are adequately proven to be acceptably safe and effective as treatments, it would be ethical for families to use them, if they wish to do so and have been offered an appropriate level of information and support”.
The Wellcome Trust has already confirmed its commitment to mitochondria research by investing in the Wellcome Trust Centre for Mitochondrial Research, which will be based at Newcastle University. The Human Fertility and Embryology Authority will be launching a public consultation in September this year to identify whether there is public support for the required change in law.
At Cesagen, is currently working on a project focusing on the social and ethical aspects of mitochondrial disease:
As part of this project Cesagen Cardiff hosted a multi-disciplinary symposium on 1st March 2012: