About mitochondrial donation

Mitochondrial donation is a new assisted reproductive technology which can help some parents to avoid transmitting mitochondrial DNA disease to their biological children.

The term collectively refers to a number of specific techniques aimed at ensuring only healthy mitochondrial DNA is passed on to an embryo.

Used in conjunction with in-vitro fertilisation (IVF), mitochondrial donation techniques allow for an embryo to be produced using material containing nuclear DNA from a man and woman and the mitochondria in an egg donated by another woman. This approach minimises the risk of transmission of the abnormal mitochondria from the mother to her child.

It cannot, however, be used to cure existing mitochondrial disease or to prevent mitochondrial disease caused by mutations in the nuclear DNA.

Why it is important

Severe mitochondrial disease can have a devastating effect on families, including the premature death of children, painful debilitating and disabling suffering, long-term ill-health and poor quality of life.

In Australia, between one in 5,000 and one in 10,000 people are likely to develop severe mitochondrial disease during their lifetime, with approximately one child per week born with a severe form of the disease.

Women who carry a mitochondrial genetic defect risk passing on severe mitochondrial disease when they have a biological child.

Introducing mitochondrial donation could prevent some children from suffering from this life threatening disease and reduce the burden of mitochondrial disease into the future.

What we’re doing about mitochondrial donation

Mitochondrial donation is not currently allowed in Australia. The Australian Government is proposing to introduce mitochondrial donation in a staged and closely monitored way.

The aim is to allow families to access the technique safely, at a carefully selected and regulated clinic. Ongoing research will also be allowed to increase Australian-based knowledge and expertise. This phase is expected to last for 10+ years.

Once the clinic has demonstrated success over a number of years, and the results have been evaluated by experts, there will be an option to allow for licensed clinics across Australia to offer mitochondrial donation.

Have your say

Consultation is now open for the public to share their views on the Government’s proposed approach to introduce mitochondrial donation in Australia.

You can share your views on our Consultation Hub. Consultations opened on 5 February 2021 and will close on 15 March 2021.

Learn more

Extensive consultation has already occurred on the ethical, scientific and legal components of mitochondrial donation. Read about the consultation and work performed by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) in 2019–20.

You can also read the Australian Government response to the 2018 Senate Community Affairs References Committee Inquiry.

Contact

Mitochondrial donation contact

Contact us if you have questions about mitochondrial donation or want to make comments or submissions about the consultation.

mito [at] health.gov.au

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Last updated: 
5 February 2021