Towards Germline Gene Therapy of Inherited Mitochondrial Diseases

Nature. 2013 Jan 31;493(7434):627-31. doi: 10.1038/nature11647. Epub 2012 Oct 24.


Mutations in mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) are associated with severe human diseases and are maternally inherited through the egg's cytoplasm. Here we investigated the feasibility of mtDNA replacement in human oocytes by spindle transfer (ST; also called spindle-chromosomal complex transfer). Of 106 human oocytes donated for research, 65 were subjected to reciprocal ST and 33 served as controls. Fertilization rate in ST oocytes (73%) was similar to controls (75%); however, a significant portion of ST zygotes (52%) showed abnormal fertilization as determined by an irregular number of pronuclei. Among normally fertilized ST zygotes, blastocyst development (62%) and embryonic stem cell isolation (38%) rates were comparable to controls. All embryonic stem cell lines derived from ST zygotes had normal euploid karyotypes and contained exclusively donor mtDNA. The mtDNA can be efficiently replaced in human oocytes. Although some ST oocytes displayed abnormal fertilization, remaining embryos were capable of developing to blastocysts and producing embryonic stem cells similar to controls.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Cell Nucleus / genetics
  • Cryopreservation
  • Cytoplasm / genetics
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / analysis
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / genetics
  • Embryo, Mammalian / embryology
  • Embryonic Stem Cells / cytology
  • Female
  • Fertilization
  • Genetic Therapy*
  • Humans
  • Macaca mulatta / genetics
  • Macaca mulatta / growth & development
  • Microsatellite Repeats / genetics
  • Mitochondrial Diseases / genetics*
  • Mitochondrial Diseases / therapy*
  • Nuclear Transfer Techniques / standards*
  • Oocytes / cytology
  • Pregnancy
  • Young Adult
  • Zygote / cytology
  • Zygote / pathology


  • DNA, Mitochondrial