Startup “Darwin Life” Commercializing Fertility Solutions.

In DNA, Genetics by Brainy Days Ahead

Startup Darwin Life is offering genetically-engineered fertility solutions, involving nuclear transfer and gene editing, for sale to the public. The company uses a technique that was originally developed to prevent the transfer of gene-related disorders from a mother to her child. That same technique also can be used to create “rejuvenated” eggs that can be offered to women in their 40’s, an age when becoming pregnant becomes less likely. While the exact cause of this infertility is unknown, some scientists believe that faulty energy-producing structures called mitochondria are the problem. The rejuventon process, called spindle neuclear transfer, combines one woman’s genes with the contents of another, youthful person’s mitochondria. Because mitochondria possess their own small number of genes, the resulting child has three genetic parents – mother, father, and a third contributor. In the U.S., the federal government not only bars the procedure but also prohibits any funding into research on fertility treatments or human embryos. As a result, the startup company will make the embryos in the U.S. but will perform the medical procedures at an affiliated clinic in Guadalajara, Mexico, and in other countries as the idea becomes more accepted. The process is controversial because it is largely untested and because some consider it a form of genetic modification. Recently, after lengthy public debate, the U.K. became the first country to formally allow the use of a similar treatment, but only when a couple is at very high risk of having a child with a life-threatening genetic disease. Darwin Life’s plans don’t stop at spindle nuclear transfer. The company’s ambitions extend to combining the technique with editing genes, so that parents can select hair or eye color, or maybe improve their children’s IQ.