We can’t draw any firm conclusions about MRT for infertility from the trial conducted by Wells and his colleagues. For a start, it was quite small. And, importantly, there was no control group. We’d need to directly compare the MRT results with those achieved using standard IVF in a similar group of people.
Shoukhrat Mitalipov, an embryo biologist at Oregon Health & Science University, who is collaborating with Wells, plans to run a larger trial in 400 volunteers to get a better idea of how well MRT might treat infertility, if at all.
The takeaway is a bit of a mixed bag. It’s worrying that MRT might not prevent mitochondrial diseases and could create babies at risk of severe illness. But if MRT trials in people struggling to conceive can tell us more about how infertility works and how to treat it, it still has a lot of potential.
Read more from Tech Review’s archive
You can read more about the MRT trial, and the two cases of reversion, in this piece, which was published on Thursday.
Karen Weintraub has covered the rise and fall of OvaScience’s Augment technique. Both of these pieces were published in the same month, which gives you some idea of how quickly this field moves.
MRT is also being explored as a way to help trans men use their eggs to have babies. One early study suggests the approach might help generate more healthy embryos from their eggs, as I reported last year.
Babies born from MRT technically have three genetic parents. There are other technologies on the horizon that could allow us to create babies with four genetic parents, or none at all. I explored what this means for our understanding of parenthood in a previous edition of The Checkup.
While fertility clinics are trying to find ways to create healthy embryos to be used in IVF, a biotech company is finding ways to generate synthetic embryos for research, as my colleague Antonio Regalado reported in August. The embryos are being grown in “mechanical wombs,” in case you were wondering.