A Magic Bullet?

Mitochondrial replacement procedures have the potential to prevent thousands of people from living with mitochondrial disease and its painful symptoms. Could it be the “cure-all” solution to eradicating mitochondrial disease?

First off, mitochondrial replacement is a form of prevention, and would not provide any relief for people already born with mitochondrial disease, who will continue to treat their symptoms until further research finds a cure.

Furthermore, not all cases of mitochondrial disease are inherited. According to a study at UNC, most single mtDNA mutations are not heritable, and “disorders due to single mtDNA mutations… are almost always sporadic” (DeMauro, 2005). In these cases, mitochondrial replacement would not be an option to prevent disease, as the only way to detect the disease would be through preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) after the disease-causing mutation had occurred, or after birth when symptoms appear. Therefore, mitochondrial replacement would not be able to prevent all potential cases of mitochondrial disease. Other anxieties about mitochondrial replacement revolve around Orwellian Concerns and Playing God.

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