All human beings have mitochondria within their cells that produce energy.1 Most of us inherit healthy mitochondria through the eggs of our mothers,2 but some of us are not so lucky. Mutations in mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) can cause these tiny organelles to function improperly and disrupt tissues that require a lot of energy, like the brain, kidney, liver, heart, muscle, and central nervous system.3 For example, a specific mtDNA mutation induces Leigh syndrome, a condition in which seizures and respiratory failure lead to decline in mental and motor skills, disabil- ity, and death.4 Mitochondrial replacement therapy (MRT) offers a solution to this problem. It replaces dysfunctional mitochondria with normal mitochon- dria in human eggs or embryos in order to produce a healthy child.5 A female child will transmit normal mitochondria through her eggs to her descendants, who will also be free of disease.6 In the United Kingdom, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has already granted fourteen applications to perform MRT on patients.7 Unfortu- nately, American women who carry mitochondrial disease and wish to save their children from sickness and death are unable to access MRT because the law currently stands in their way.8 The U.S. Congress has placed a federal moratorium on heritable germline modification,9 including MRT.10 Some observers argue that MRT should be exempt from the federal moratorium because it does not actually alter the nuclear genome.11 However, even if the U.S. Congress were to heed this advice, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) were to authorize clinical trials, another serious legal roadblock looms on the horizon because many prolife advocates claim that MRT is a form of human cloning.12 Do state laws banning human cloning pose a legal risk to scientists who conduct MRT research and/or medical providers and patients who use MRT to produce children? This article seeks to answer that question. Part I describes and compares human cloning and MRT methods in bio- logical terms. Part II reviews state laws that prohibit human cloning. Part III analyzes these laws in more detail and discusses whether they are ap- plicable to common MRT methods. Finally, Part IV concludes that states should amend their anti-cloning laws to exclude MRT methods.
Kerry L. Macintosh,
Does Mitochondrial Replacement Therapy Violate Laws Against Human Cloning?
, 43 Loy. L.A. Int’l & Comp. L. Rev. 251
Available at: https://digitalcommons.law.scu.edu/facpubs/1011