Two hands hold up infant

Doctors from Nadiya clinic in Kiev, Ukraine announced that a baby girl is born with the help of so-called three-parent technique. This is the first birth of a child in Ukraine, which was conceived in such a way. A few months ago, the world’s first baby boy was born in Mexico. This childbirth has opened the door of a brand new medicine technique in infertility treatments.

Clinic director Valery Zukin holding the baby girl. Nadiya Clinic

The baby’s mother suffered from infertility, particularly from embryonic arrest, for 15 years and finally with the help of mitochondrial transfer technique she manages to conceive and deliver a healthy girl. The baby genetically speaks, has three parents. She inherited the chromosomes from father and mother, but the mitochondrial DNA from a donor. The director of Nadiya clinic Valery Zukin claims that approximately 10-20 thousand women per year could be potential candidates for using this method.

IVF Techniques – How it works?

Widely known as three-parent technique, this method is actually in vitro fertilization called pronuclear transfer. So, how it works? In theory, there are a few ways of doing this.

First is, above mentioned, pronuclear transfer. Pronuclei is the nucleus of a sperm or an egg cell during the process of fertilization. So, the mother’s egg and a donor egg are fertilized at the same time with the father’s sperm. Before the fertilized eggs start dividing into early-stage embryos, each nucleus is removed. Then the pronuclei are sucked out of the mother’s egg and transferred into the empty donor egg.
Still, there is controversy about this method, most the ethical one. It appears the mitochondrial transfer is too big healthy risk as high numbers of mitochondria including disease-carrying ones from the mother’s egg may be carried into the donor egg.

Three-parent baby explanation chart.
Source: Third scientific review of the safety and efficacy of methods to avoid mitochondrial disease through assisted conception, Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, June 2014

The second method is spindle transfer. Spindles are protein fiber and chromosomes are attached to them. This mixture is removed from mother’s egg and inserted into the donor egg, which previously left without its nucleus. Then a sperm cell is injected into the resulting egg to fertilize it. The result is nuclear DNA from the mother and mitochondrial DNA from a donor.

Spindle transfer chart
Spindle transfer – Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, June 2014

The third possibility is polar body transfer. This technique was first published in 2014 and it is considered promising as there is a greatly reduced chance of transmitting mitochondrial from the recipient because polar bodies contain very few mitochondria. It also doesn’t include extracting materials from eggs.

Fertilization chart.
Fertilization chart. Image: Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, June 2014

Interestingly, these techniques are approved in the UK as a way of avoiding genetic diseases. According to the British Fertility Society, IVF techniques are highly experimental and has to be more scientifically proven to be used regularly for baby births. However, success with Ukrainian and Mexican babies giving a hope to million couples.