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Pioneering Research in the UK should be able in the future, to help families at risk from mitochondrial diseases to have healthy children. This article was in the Irish independent last Thursday 15th April 2010.

Most people know that we have DNA inside our bodies that provide a blueprint for making… well, us.  But strangely we actually have another special kind of DNA inside us called Mitochondrial DNA – it’s actually a kind of a parasite – but like the good bacteria in your gut.

Normal DNA is for eye colour, height and so on, but this mitochondrial stuff is really important because it helps us absorb nutrients and controls our metabolism.  But it also has some very interesting features.  Firstly, unlike normal DNA it is only passed on from the mother to the child – it’s a kind of “Mommy DNA”, and secondly, unlike normal DNA, it doesn’t change much as it’s passed on – in fact, nearly everyone you know probably has the same mitochondrial DNA.

Sometimes, however, it does change and not for the better, and this can cause devastating inherited illnesses.  This is where this breakthrough comes in.  By taking the normal DNA from Mom and the normal DNA from Dad, but replacing Mom’s damaged mitochondrial DNA with a third source – these illnesses could be a thing of the past.  Of course, now baby has three parents – believe it or not.

Another interesting breakthrough using mitochrondrial DNA happened a couple of years ago.  Because it is only passed along by mothers and it doesn’t change much, scientists were able to use it to identify a woman they called “Mitochondrial Eve” – the great, great, great, great, great, great etc….. grandmother of us all.

Source: Irish Independent

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