Scientists in Oregon have produced four monkeys using the genetic material of two females. This breakthrough could lead to the same technique being performed using human genetic material.
Researchers from the Oregon Health & Science University replaced most of the genes of one rhesus macaque monkey with genes from another, according to The Washington Post. They then implanted embryos (fertilized with sperm), into the uterus of another monkey, who gave birth to four healthy offspring.
The experiment is a step toward helping humans prevent genetic deformities in their offspring. Defects in mitochondrial DNA can produce disorders including seizures, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Huntington’s diseases. Mitochondrial DNA is inherited from the female parent. Swapping out mitochondrial DNA, allows the defective genes to be replaced.
The end result is offspring with two genetic mothers and a genetic father, which raises social and ethical concerns.
(Although probably more in the scientific and straight communities than in the LGBT world, where we’re already used to complicated families.)
More worrisome, according to the article, the procedure could tamper with the “germline,” permanently altering genes for future generations.
If you’ve followed any of the science reporting in recent years about mitochondrial genetic tracing, you’ll understand this concern. Research has revealed one woman “Mitochondrial Eve,” to be the most recent common ancestor for all currently living human beings. The business about the snake and the apple is still unclear, however.