Scientists at the Oregon National Primate Research Center have discovered a crazy sci-fi way to possibly prevent genetically inherited diseases. This sounds pretty unbelievable, but they actually combine the eggs from two different mothers to create one single stronger egg. It already works for mama monkeys; and it could help humans too.
Researchers are trying to prevent mitochondrial diseases, which are disorders that exist in the material surrounding the nucleus of an egg. More than 4000 kids are born with them every year, and they're often fatal. So how do these mad scientists make one egg out of two? They take the nucleus from the mother and the surrounding material from a donor (this egg has healthy mitochondria) and fuse it together. Though the woman whose nucleus is used is technically the mother, interestingly enough child would actually be created from the genetic material from three parents. Crazy.
Researchers test-drove the franken-eggs on four monkeys in 2009. All of the mothers had healthy babies that are still doing well. Now the egg combination process has been tested out with human eggs. Sixty-five of them were joined together, and five or six days later, just under half had grown into healthy blastocysts. A member of the team said the problem seems to be that during fertilisation, the faulty eggs aren't quite halving their DNA properly.
These are encouraging results, but the process isn't quite ready for human trials. The UK government is, however, hosting an open forum to get a reading on public interest. In terms of science fiction coming to life, we'd take this over Daleks any day. [Nature via NewScientist]