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Setting the record straight

by Martin H. JohnsonReproductive BioMedicine Online
December 1st, 2016

Untitled Document

This editorial comments on a paper from Chen et al. (2016)), published in this issue of RBM Online, in an attempt to set the record straight after some shoddy scientific journalism. The paper describes the long-term outcomes of experimental treatments involving ooplasmic transfers conducted between 1996 and 2001 at Saint Barnabas Medical Centre, Livingston, New Jersey, USA (Barritt et al., 2001a). It is timely to report these findings in light of (i) a recent report of the birth of a baby after ‘mitochondrial transfer’, and (ii) because the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) in the UK is deciding whether to issue a license for treatment by mitochondrial transfer (http://www.hfea.gov.uk/10363.html).

First, the report of the birth of a baby after meiotic metaphase II spindle transfer to alleviate mitochondrial disease came not in a standard journal article, but in the form of an abstract submitted to the recent American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) meeting (Zhang et al., 2016a). In choosing this route, the authors have unfortunate form – the same authors having used the same approach previously (Zhang et al., 2003) when describing the adverse outcome of a pregnancy involving transfer of embryos generated by the related technique of pronuclear transfer, the full details of which were not published until earlier this year (Zhang et al., 2016b). It is to be hoped that it will not take 13 years for the full details of this case to be made available to the medical community. However, the point at issue is that, although the work described in the paper by Chen et al. (2016)) is referred to in press reports on Zhang et al. (2016a)), the former differed markedly in intent, methods and outcomes...

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