The Council has set up a new Working Party to consider the ethical issues raised by mitochondrial donation.

Mitochondrial disorders affect around 1 in 250 live births and can cause symptoms such as muscular weakness, blindness, liver failure and diabetes.

Mitochondria are inherited through the maternal line via the mitochondria present in the egg, and mitochondrial disorders are often caused by mutations in the DNA contained in mitochondria. Research into treatment has focussed on replacing mutated mitochondria with healthy mitochondria from a donor at the point of reproduction, i.e. in the context of in vitro fertilisation.

This project aims to identify and explore the key ethical issues that are relevant to the techniques of in vitro mitochondrial transfer, in order to inform public and parliamentary discussion and debate.

The Working Party, chaired by Dr Geoff Watts, will meet for the first time in November 2011 and a report is expected to be published in spring 2012.