Health | Oregon | Science | Vital Signs

OHSU Unveils A Potential Breakthrough In Gene Therapy

OPB | Oct. 24, 2012 4:44 p.m. | Updated: June 7, 2013 10:22 a.m. | Portland

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Oregon Health & Science University unveiled Wednesday what may be a new gene therapy. The hope is to avoid some dreaded hereditary disorders.

The new therapy was developed in monkeys at the Oregon National Primate Research Center. 

It involves swapping the mitochondrial DNA in a mother’s egg with mitochondrial DNA from another woman. That swapping could bypass mutations that cause damaging conditions like diabetes and dementia. 

Doctor Shoukhrat Mitalipov says he’s successfully demonstrated the procedure in human cells — and he wants the FDA to allow clinical trials in people.

“It might take probably at least two or three years before we start these clinical trials. But how long the FDA would like us to follow up this case is unclear at this point.”

The Center for Genetics and Society says this kind of genetic engineering has been ruled off-limits because it could be used for genetic enhancement. For example, improving a child’s IQ or physical appearance.  

The Center also warns that a mistake could introduce a new genetic disease into the population.

The research is published in the journal Nature.

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