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Is Mitochondrial Donation Germ-Line Gene Therapy? Classifications and Ethical Implications

Wrigley, A; Newson, AJ

Is Mitochondrial Donation Germ-Line Gene Therapy? Classifications and Ethical Implications Thumbnail


AJ Newson


The classification of techniques used in mitochondrial donation, including their role as purported germ-line gene therapies, is far from clear. These techniques exhibit characteristics typical of a variety of classifications that have been used in both scientific and bioethics scholarship. This raises two connected questions, which we address in this paper: (i) how should we classify mitochondrial donation techniques?; and (ii) what ethical implications surround such a classification? First, we outline how methods of genetic intervention, such as germ-line gene therapy, are typically defined or classified. We then consider whether techniques of mitochondrial donation fit into these, whether they might do so with some refinement of these categories, or whether they require some other approach to classification. To answer the second question, we discuss the relationship between classification and several key ethical issues arising from mitochondrial donation. We conclude that the properties characteristic of mitochondrial inheritance mean that most mitochondrial donation techniques belong to a new sub-class of genetic modification, which we call ‘conditionally inheritable genomic modification’ (CIGM).

Acceptance Date Sep 13, 2016
Publication Date Dec 14, 2016
Journal Bioethics
Print ISSN 0269-9702
Publisher Wiley
Pages 55-67
Keywords mitochondrial replacement, mitochondrial disease, mitochondrial donation, gene therapy, ethics, identity, genetic modification, germ-line
Publisher URL


Bioethics Newson Wrigley Mitochondria FINAL FOR PUBLICATION Sept 2016.pdf (304 Kb)

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