It has been reported in the media that a small number of babies have been born in the UK following the use of mitochondrial DNA transfer techniques.

An article in the Guardian reports that, in response to a freedom of information request, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) have said that fewer than five births have taken place. However, it is not yet known whether treatments have been effective in preventing the transmission of mitochondrial DNA disorders in these cases.

Our 2012 report concluded that the use of mitochondrial transfer techniques that aim to prevent the transmission of maternally inherited mitochondrial disorders would be an ethical treatment option for affected families, provided research shows that treatment is likely to be safe and effective, and families are offered full information and support.

The report also recommended that the treatment should only be offered as part of a research study in centres specialising in mitochondrial disorders, and that centres should have arrangements for long-term follow up of patients and children resulting from the treatment. These recommendations were incorporated in the HFEA’s licensing guidance.

Newcastle Fertility Centre is currently the only centre in the UK licenced to carry out these treatments. The centre is yet to comment. A statement from the HFEA says:

“We understand that the team at Newcastle hopes to publish information of their mitochondrial treatment programme in peer-reviewed journals shortly.”