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How many parents does it take to avoid inherited mitochondrial disease?


Panel Discussions


Join City University London's MA Science Journalism course and the Progress Education Trust and for a debate on the issues surrounding mitochondrial transfer, a procedure that aims to reduce the number of people affected by disease caused by inheriting damaged 'energy-making' DNA from their mothers.

This has been widely described in the media as creating "three parent babies". When you consider that only around 37 genes are contained in mitochondrial DNA - compared to over 20,000 in nuclear DNA - is this really a fair description?

Technically, the people born using these procedures will have inherited at least some of three people's DNA - should they be concerned about their identity?

The DNA in our cells' "batteries" - our mitochondria - can go wrong, just as our nuclear DNA can. Because we only inherit mitochondrial DNA from our mums, scientists are working on a way to take out her healthy nucleus and transfer it into a donor cell (with its healthy mitochondria) from another woman.

The government has commissioned a public consultation and ethical review into the issues to ask, should we change the law to allow doctors to use such techniques? Join the discussion as we ask whether we should be concerned that these techniques influence the genetic makeup of our future generations.

And, ethically speaking, is this the right way to proceed? There are currently no known links with mitochondrial DNA and personality traits, but it is used to trace people's ancestry - should scientists be altering this?

Chair: Professor Sir Mark Walport, Outgoing director of the Wellcome Trust and incoming Chief Scientific Advisor to the UK government

Panel members:
Liz Curtis and Alison Maguire, Lily Foundation for research into mitochondrial disease and other metaboloc disorders
Mart Herbert, Professor of reproductive biology at Newcastle University
Martin Richards, emeritus professor of family research at the University of Cambridge
John Wyatt, emeritus professor of ethics and perinatology at University College London

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When & where

6.30pm - 8.00pmTuesday 25th September 2012

Oliver Thompson Lecture Theatre Tait Building City, University of London Northampton Square London EC1V 0HB United Kingdom

Contact Details

City Events Team

+44 (0)20 7040 8037

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