Mitochondrial Replacement Techniques: Genetic Relatedness, Gender Implications, and Justice.
Ishii T., Palacios-González C.
In 2015 the United Kingdom (UK) became the first nation to legalize egg and zygotic nuclear transfer procedures using mitochondrial replacement techniques (MRTs) to prevent the maternal transmission of serious mitochondrial DNA diseases to offspring. These techniques are a form of human germline genetic modification and can happen intentionally if female embryos are selected during the MRT clinical process, either through sperm selection or preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD). In the same year, an MRT was performed by a United States (U.S.)-based physician team. This experiment involved a cross-border effort: the MRT procedure per se was carried out in the US, and the embryo transfer in Mexico. The authors examine the ethics of MRTs from the standpoint of genetic relatedness and gender implications, in places that lack adequate laws and regulation regarding assisted reproduction. Then, we briefly examine whether MRTs can be justified as a reproductive option in the US and Mexico, after reassessing their legalization in the UK. We contend that morally inadequate and ineffective regulations regarding egg donation, PGD, and germline genetic modifications jeopardize the ethical acceptability of the implementation of MRTs, suggesting that MRTs are currently difficult to justify in the US and Mexico. In addition to relevant regulation, the initiation and appropriate use of MRTs in a country require a child-centered follow-up policy and more evidence for its safety.