Academic journal article Albany Law Review

The Good, the Bad, and the Healthy: How Spindlechromosomal Complex Transfer Can Improve the Future

Academic journal article Albany Law Review

The Good, the Bad, and the Healthy: How Spindlechromosomal Complex Transfer Can Improve the Future

Article excerpt

I. INTRODUCTION

A child who will develop a mitochondrial disease by age ten is born every fifteen minutes. (1) Mitochondrial diseases can affect the nervous system and skeletal muscles, cause heart and cardiac abnormalities, and cause organ malfunction. (2) Principally, mitochondrial diseases are caused by mitochondrial DNA CmtDNA") mutations, which are genetically inherited through the mother. (3) These mtDNA mutations cause mitochondrial dysfunction, which is at the core of many common illnesses such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, diabetes, arthritis, cancer, and aging. (4) The severity of mitochondrial diseases varies according

to the percentage of mutated mtDNA present in the mother's egg. (5) Since each egg contains numerous mitochondria, some mutated and others not, the percentage of mutated mtDNA passed genetically to a child is unpredictable. (6) Due to the erratic nature of mtDNA mutations, it has been difficult for scientists and researchers to identify mutated mtDNA within a mother's egg. (7) Therefore, developing methods to prevent mutated mtDNA from genetically transferring to a mother's offspring has been challenging.

Until the advent of a recent germline (8) therapy technique, called spindle-chromosomal complex transfer, (9) there had been no way to identify and remove mutated mtDNA from a mother's egg, thereby preventing the transfer of mutated mtDNA to her offspring. (10) Therefore, children born to a mother with a genetic history evidencing mtDNA diseases, or who carries mutated mtDNA, could be born with a disease, develop one later in life, or not be affected at all. With the technological advancement of spindle-chromosomal complex transfer, a child can be born without the inherited mutated mtDNA, and thus be healthy. (11)

This paper argues that new biomedical technology, whose purpose is to prevent children from suffering with a disease associated with mtDNA, should not be unduly hindered by regulations, institutional review boards, lack of funding, or restrictions on human clinical trials. Although research and testing should be reviewed and regulated to ensure it is performed in good faith, the technology should not be stifled, thereby preventing its advancement and utilization. Less restrictive regulations should be applied to spindle-chromosomal complex transfer to allow for widespread utilization and access to this beneficial technology.

Part II will provide factual background about mitochondria: what it is, its role in cell function, and genetic diseases associated with mutated mtDNA. Part II will also provide factual background about spindle-chromosomal complex transfer, its processes, requirements, and potential outcome. Part III will discuss the current legal background surrounding egg donation and research involving gene therapy. Part IV will address ethical and legal concerns continually arising out of research involving human subjects and gene manipulation. Part V will discuss clinical trials in relation to regulation processes and ethical principles. Finally, Part VI will propose a bill aimed at allowing for funding, gamete donation, and gene therapy, which will enable spindle-chromosomal complex transfer technology to proceed and be available to those who wish to utilize this biotechnology.

II. MITOCHONDRIAL DNA AND SPINDLE-CHROMOSOMAL COMPLEX TRANSFER: THE FACTS

Mitochondria are important, complex organelles which provide cellular energy for cell growth and cell death. (12) Considered the "power plant of the cell," they contain enzymes responsible for each cell's activity, (13) and affect how cells convert food into energy. (14) Mitochondria are "responsible for providing more than 90% of the energy needed by the body to sustain life and support growth." (15) They are located in almost every cell of our body and contain their own genome: mtDNA. (16) Since each cell contains numerous mitochondria, "a cell may harbor several thousand mtDNA copies. …

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