The Kids Are All Right: Children With 3-Way DNA Are Healthy, Study Finds | NBC 10 Philadelphia
National & International News
The day’s top national and international news

The Kids Are All Right: Children With 3-Way DNA Are Healthy, Study Finds

"The outcomes looked uniformly good ... suggesting that no harm was done," said a doctor who reviewed the results

    processing...

    NEWSLETTERS

    A new study says children conceived with DNA from three people are doing well in their teens. Doctors followed up on kids born after an experimental infertility technique combined DNA from mom, dad and an egg donor. (Published Thursday, Oct. 27, 2016)

    More than 15 years ago, 17 babies were born after an experimental infertility treatment that gave them DNA from three people: Mom, Dad and an egg donor.

    Now researchers have checked up on how the babies are doing as teenagers. The preliminary verdict: The kids are all right.

    With no sign of unusual health problems and excellent grades in school at ages 13 to 18, these children are "doing well," said embryologist Jacques Cohen of the Institute for Reproductive Medicine & Science at Saint Barnabas in Livingston, New Jersey, where the treatment was done.

    That includes Emma Foster, 17, of Red Bank, New Jersey. "I turned out normal," Foster said in an interview Tuesday. A cheerleader since age 10, she is now looking at colleges and thinking of majoring in engineering.

    Peggy Whitson Completes 8th Spacewalk

    [NATL] Peggy Whitson Completes 8th Spacewalk

    NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson floated out on the eighth spacewalk of her career Thursday morning, 250 miles up at the International Space Station. That's the most spacewalks ever performed by a woman. 

    (Published 2 hours ago)

    The infertility procedure is no longer performed. But the study of the children is timely because just last month, the first baby was born from a different procedure that also mixed genetic material from three people. That technique is aimed not at infertility but at preventing the child from inheriting harmful genes from the mother. Critics are concerned about its long-term safety.

    So finding no problem so far from the infertility treatment is helpful and "a good message" for people considering the disease-prevention procedure, Cohen said. But he emphasized that his findings cannot be taken as proof that the newer procedure is safe and should be performed.

    Cells carry DNA in two places: the nucleus, where the chromosomes are, and to a much smaller degree the mitochondria. Mitochondria are the little powerhouses in the cytoplasm, the liquid part of the egg cell outside the nucleus.

    Both DNA-mixing procedures involve the mitochondria; the one that recently produced the baby was aimed at replacing a mother's defective mitochondria. Cohen's procedure injected a bit of mitochondria-containing cytoplasm into the mother's egg.

    13 Killed in Head-on Highway Collision in Texas

    [NATL] 13 Killed in Head-on Highway Collision in Texas

    A church bus and a pick-up truck collided head-on on a highway west of San Antonio, Texas, on Wednesday. Thirteen people have died.

    (Published Wednesday, March 29, 2017)

    Genes in the mitochondrial DNA don't affect traits like eye and hair color but are important for keeping cells healthy throughout the body.

    Cohen's hospital performed the infertility treatment between 1996 and 2001 on 33 couples who failed to conceive after roughly five tries at in vitro fertilization.

    "We felt that there was something wrong with the cytoplasm" and that injecting a small amount of it from a healthy egg donor might aid embryo development, Cohen said.

    Fourteen of the 33 patients became pregnant, and 13 ultimately gave birth to 18 babies, including two sets of twins and one of quadruplets. (One of the 18 babies was a twin from a standard egg donation; doctors also included data on that child in the follow-up study.)

    Samsung Unveils New Galaxy Smartphones

    [NATL] Samsung Unveils New Galaxy Smartphones

    Samsung unveiled its latest smartphones, the Galaxy 8 and 8+, at an event in New York City on Wednesday.  This is Samsung's first major phone release since issues with battery fires forced the company to recall all Note 7 smartphones.

    (Published Wednesday, March 29, 2017)

    Cohen and colleagues presented their findings Wednesday in the journal Reproductive BioMedicine Online.

    The parents of the quadruplets refused multiple requests for follow-up information; doctors know only that all four are alive and in high school.

    In detailed surveys, parents of the 14 other children all reported their kids in good health. One has chronic migraines, two have mild asthma, one is obese, seven have allergies, and one has attention deficit disorder. None of those rates are unusual for that number of children, doctors said. One boy was diagnosed with a borderline developmental disorder at 18 months but not when he was older, and he has an A average in school.

    "These children have done well," Cohen said. "It's what we expected or at least had hoped."

    At least two other clinics in the U.S. and several in other countries tried the technique after Cohen started it, but the U.S. work stopped after the Food and Drug Administration stepped in to regulate it. Cohen said his group tried to comply with the FDA's requirements for a permit to continue the work but lost funding before it could meet them.

    It's not clear why the treatment worked for the 13 couples, Cohen said. One possibility is the infusion of mitochondria, but cytoplasm contains other molecules and structures too, he said.

    In any case, it was a success for Emma's parents, Susan and Peter Foster, who had been trying for about seven years to have a baby.

    When Cohen's experimental procedure was described to them and they were asked if they were interested, they had no doubts, Peter said.

    Severe Thunderstorms in Texas

    [NATL] Severe Thunderstorms in Texas

    Severe thunderstorms struck northern and western Texas overnight, producing wind gusts up to 70 mph and penny-sized hail. A tornado was spotted by residents of Stamford. One person was injured and up to 15 homes were damaged. At mid-day, over 127,000 households were without power.

    (Published Wednesday, March 29, 2017)

    Susan gave birth at 33. Emma was healthy and has continued that way, her parents say.

    Emma is the only child in the survey to have been told about the procedure. She said she has long known her origins were unusual — her mom keeps a book that shows her as an embryo — but she didn't know the specifics until recently.

    "I think it's really cool," she said. "It makes me different."

    She may no longer carry any trace of the donor. Only two of eight babies tested after birth showed any sign of donor mitochondria, and Emma was one who showed none. Cohen said the tests, which were not as sensitive then as now, might have overlooked some traces.

    Prom Dress Guideline Fliers Slammed by Students for Sexism

    [NATL] 'Good Girl': Prom Dress Guideline Fliers Slammed by Students for Sexism

    Fliers posted at Stanton College Prep High sparked outrage from both female and male students in the Jacksonville, Florida, school. Students cited outdated "guidelines", as well as demeaning language, for the outcry.

    (Published Wednesday, March 29, 2017)

    The follow-up study has some limitations. It's based on a survey of parents, and the accuracy of such second-hand information can be shaky. And it includes just 13 teens, with no comparison group.

    Still, Dr. James Grifo, director of infertility treatment at New York University, said the results suggest that criticism of research that mixes DNA from three people appears unfounded.

    "The outcomes looked uniformly good ... suggesting that no harm was done," said Grifo, who did not participate in the new study. The donor cytoplasm "certainly may have played a role in allowing their embryo to develop to a stage that allowed a pregnancy."

    In 1999, after years of experiments in mice, Grifo and colleagues made embryos with DNA from three people and transferred them to several patients' wombs, but no pregnancy resulted. Then the FDA stepped in and stopped the work.

    Pig Escapes Slaughterhouse Fate, Sells Original Paintings

    [NATL] Pig Escapes Slaughterhouse Fate, Sells Original Paintings

    A pig who escaped slaughter is now living out her life in a South African sanctuary and painting original works that have sold for up to $2,000.

    "She was really small when I rescued her," said Joanne Lefson, who manages the South African Farm Sanctuary, a haven for rescued farm animals where the pig now lives. "She's very smart and intelligent so I placed a few balls and some paintbrushes and things in her pen, and it wasn't long before I discovered that she really liked the bristles and the paintbrush...She just really took a knack for it."

    Funds from the art sales go towards the sanctuary.

    (Published Wednesday, March 29, 2017)

    "I think it should be allowed," Grifo said.

    But Dr. Alan Copperman, director of infertility at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, said the jury is still out on whether using a third party's genetic material is safe.

    "I don't think that we're yet able to declare victory and that we've figured out how to fix an unhealthy egg or embryo," Copperman said. Most eggs that fail to develop normally, especially with older patients, are because of abnormal chromosomes, so tinkering with the cytoplasm is not likely to be a solution for many people, he said.

    But it apparently worked for the Fosters.

    Clinton Gives First Major Post-Election Speech

    [NATL] Hillary Clinton Gives First Major Post-Election Speech at Event for Businesswomen

    Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave her first major public speech on Tuesday since losing the 2016 presidential election, speaking at a meeting of the Professional Businesswomen of California organization in San Fransisco, California.

    (Published Wednesday, March 29, 2017)

    Emma "is a blessing and a miracle," Susan Foster said, "and medical science made that possible."

    ___

    This story has been corrected to show that the research institution involved was the Institute for Reproductive Medicine & Science at Saint Barnabas.

    Marchione reported from Milwaukee. Ritter reported from Livingston, New Jersey. Study: http://bit.ly/2eODF5K

    Mom Tells Son's Story in Fight for NIH Funding

    [NATL-DC] Mom Tells Son's Story in Fight for NIH Funding

    Pediatric cancer research is one of the least funded and proposed budget cuts to NIH will deplete it even more. A family whose child died from pediatric cancer is testifying on Capitol Hill Wednesday, March 29, to save the funding. Tammi and Jason Carr in Michigan founded the ChadTough Foundation to honor their son Chad, who died at age 5 after battling a brain tumor. News4’s Shomari Stone reports. 

    (Published Tuesday, March 28, 2017)