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Newcastle applies for world's first mitochondrial license

Newcastle experts behind pioneering IVF-based technique confirm that they have applied for a licence to help patients who risk transmitting mitochondrial disease to their children.

To enable these women to have normal pregnancies whilst reducing the risk of babies having mitochondrial disease, egg donors from across the North East are needed.

The team at Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Newcastle University has been the first to apply for a licence from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) as soon as the process opened (15th December 2016). It follows the HFEA announcement that it is accepting licence applications for mitochondrial donation techniques and follows rigorous scientific and ethical examination as well as a change in law in October 2015.

If successful, this would see women receiving treatment as an NHS service at the Newcastle Fertility Centre and the NHS Highly Specialised Service for Mitochondrial Disease. Subject to a successful license application Wellcome plans to fund a study of the long term follow up of children born by mitochondrial donation. This would be in collaboration with the Wellcome Centre for Mitochondrial Research at Newcastle University where follow-up treatments will be centred.

The Newcastle team aim to offer treatment for up to 25 women a year affected by mitochondrial disease but the treatment could be held back if they don’t have enough healthy donated eggs.

The Newcastle Fertility Centre is looking for healthy women who are up to 35 years old to consider donating their eggs to help this cause.

Donors need to be living in the North East region as they will be required to attend a few clinics for close monitoring.

Professor Mary Herbert from the Wellcome Centre for Mitochondrial Disease at Newcastle University and the Newcastle Fertility Centre who led the IVF research leading to these developments said: “We welcome today’s decision from the HFEA and it is enormously gratifying that our many years of research in this area can finally be applied to help families affected by these devastating diseases.

“The development of the new techniques depended entirely on the willingness of women in the North East to donate their eggs for research.  Our research to improve the techniques further is still ongoing and we will continue to need donated eggs for this. 

“Importantly, now that that we are moving forward towards clinical treatments, we will also need donors to donate eggs for use in treatment to prevent affected women transmitting disease to their children.”

The Newcastle Egg Donation Programme is led by Dr Meenakshi Choudhary, a Consultant Gynaecologist at the Newcastle Fertility Centre, part of the Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and an associate lecturer at Newcastle University.

She said: “Newcastle has been at the forefront of this pioneering technology which has in a great part been due to the generosity of the women in this region. Their help has enabled the research to progress to this point where the UK is going to be able to treat women affected for the first time.

“Egg donation for mitochondrial donation treatment differs from other forms of egg donation in that the donor’s nuclear genetic material will not be used for treatment.”

For the full article please visit the Newcastle University Website.

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