This is really just a tiny little post, because I’ve this question kicking around in my mind. I read this post the other day that’s all about the mDNA and three-parent reproduction or whatever we are going to call it.
I’ve been persuaded over time that children should be able to have access to information about their genetic lineage if they want. And I would include in that contact information for the person who provided gametes. (I am well aware that we might call that person different things–genetic parent, parent, donor, whatever. I’m skipping that point right now.)
I reach this conclusion because it seems apparent that to some people it is extremely important information, intertwined with their sense of identity. I do not really understand why–I might speculate that this is socially constructed. But perhaps it doesn’t matter why because for people who have this experience/need it is real and not having access to information can be hurtful.
(I’ll just put a little marker here–the worst, in my book, is when people are not honest about things. Failing to tell children the story of their conception is a different but also hurtful thing. Even if one cannot give children the information they want (because you don’t have it, say) you can at least be honest with them about that.)
Anyway, the blog notes (and I’m going to assume this is right) that mitochondria contribute 37 genes out of the roughly 25,0000 genes we have. As I understand it, the mDNA does not contribute to any of the traits like hair color, eye color, skin color, etc. It’s not that those 37 genes are unimportant, because the whole reason for the three-parent technique is to address the consequences of problematic mDNA. But as far as I can tell mDNA has nothing to do with what we think of as heritable traits.
So here’s the question I wonder about. Imagine a child created using the nuclear DNA of a man and woman who raise the child and the mDNA of another woman–someone who donated an egg for the purpose. Might the child have the same felt need to know the mitochondrial donor that some people have to know the egg/sperm donors who were involved in their conception? Do those 37 genes contribute enough so that they, too (at least for some people) are key to understanding your identity?
I’m interested in this question. This does not have to do with whether or not one should use this new technique. It has to do with whether we need to take the same steps to give kids access to information about the mDNA provider as we do about egg/sperm donors.
And then there’s the flip side. Will women think about providing mDNA in the same way they think about perhaps providing an egg? I’m inclined to think not, but I don’t know, of course. A woman who gives up an egg might look at every child she sees to see if she sees her eyes, her hair, her features, etc. A woman who gives up mDNA wouldn’t really do that, would she?
All just food for thought. Which somehow reminds me I need to go do the dinner dishes.