Five-month-old Abrahim Hassan’s Jordanian parents, Ibtisam Shaban and Mahmoud Hassan, were treated by a U.S. team based in Mexico using a controversial technique that allows parents with rare genetic mutations to have healthy babies, the New Scientist reports.
Shaban carries genes for Leigh syndrome, a rare genetic disorder characterized by the degeneration of the central nervous system; the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerve. Although she is healthy, Shaban’s first two children died because of Leigh syndrome, so she sought out the help of the New Hope Fertility Center in New York.
Doctors at the center carried out a ‘spindle nuclear transfer’, where they removed the nucleus from one of Shaban’s eggs and inserted it into a donor egg which had had its nucleus removed. The resulting egg was then fertilized with Hassan’s sperm. An embryo was then implanted in Shaban – and, nine months later, Abrahim was born.
When Abrahim was tested for Leigh syndrome, they found less than 1% of his mitochondria (tiny structures found in cells) carried the mutation. He will continue to be monitored by doctors to make sure the levels remain as low. “Generally it is thought to take around 18% of mitochondria to be affected before problems start,” says the New Scientist.