Will My DNA Pass to My Baby if I Use Donor Eggs?
If I Carry Using A Donor Egg Will My Child Get Any of My DNA?
HOT on our radar is the study coming out of Spain claiming that mothers carrying donor eggs still pass on a type of their DNA, called microRNA. Incredible news, and it also sounds a little too good to be true. So we did some poking around in peer-reviewed archives to check the validity of this claim. The verdict? As if there weren't already a million reasons to love Spain (cause, paella), we can now add their progressive research to the mix, which has us sold.
The Fundacion Instituto Valenciano de Infertilidad, a non-profit research center for reproductive health, and Standford University have concluded that microRNA's molecules secreted in the mother’s womb are capable of changing the genetic information of the developing fetus.* The 2015 study is gaining traction, as many infertile women welcome the news that they can influence their donor eggs genetically.
The study stemmed from the 1990 "Barker Hypothesis," which explored fetal origins of adult diseases, confirming that the womb is responsible for programming the genetics of the developing fetus.** To test the theory on donor eggs, the monitored the activity of genes within the uterus fluid of 10 women. They found that "6 of the 27 specific maternal microRNAs were expressed in the endometrial epithelium (uterus membrane) during the window of implantation and were released into the endometrial fluid."***
Awesome. But we weren't entirely sure we knew what this all meant. So we asked our friend Helder Filipe, a renowned Los Angeles-based Neuroscientist, our pressing questions:
The Bird & The Bee: Whats a microRNA and what do they do?
Helder: Our DNA, which carries our genetic information, may be transcribed into different types of RNA. People often focus on messenger RNA because that is the RNA that will eventually be used to form proteins. However, there are other forms of RNA. MicroRNAs are very small RNAs that do not code for proteins, but instead they seem to be important to regulate gene expression. For example, they may silence the expression of certain messenger RNAs, not allowing those RNAs to be translated into proteins.
The Bird & The Bee: So this study suggests that microRNA's can change genes?
Helder: In Villela's study, it was shown that endometrium cells of rats can release microRNAs, more specifically, a microRNA designated as hsa-miR-30d, into the endometrial cavity. In addition, the study demonstrated that rat embryos were able to take up those maternal microRNAs, which seemed to result in differential gene expression in the rat embryos. Altogether, the results suggest that maternal microRNAs may affect the expression of embryonic genes, an idea that goes along with the notion that the maternal endometrium plays an important role in the embryo's gene expression or the so-called Barker's hypothesis.
The Bird & The Bee: Do you think a donor egg can be influenced by the carrying mother in utero?
Helder: The idea that the uterine environment can change gene expression in the embryo seems valid and not much of a surprise. This study just reveals a possible mechanism for that change - that's worth being considered. Likewise, the embryo and fetus also affects the mother in many ways, and probably in similar ways.
The Bird & The Bee: What sort of capacity could the child be changed then?
Helder: Theoretically, it would all depend on the genes that are affected and on whether those changes can be reverted or not.
The Bird & The Bee: Would physical characteristics or personality traits be capable of being altered?
Helder: We tend to regard the physical and psychological characteristics of an adult as a result of an interplay between genes and environment. The intrauterine environment is just a portion of the different environmental factors we are exposed throughout our life but the embryonic and fetal period are very important periods, so at least theoretically, all is possible. And sometimes, a small change turns out to be extremely important. For example, a small change in our neural systems for perception may affect the way we experience the world, and thus affect our development and maturation. And that way, for example, a small change can affect our personality.
You heard the man. The idea that maternal utero influence can alter genes seems a viable one, and something we can expect to see scientists exploring further in the near future. Keep checking back with us as we follow these advances, and get more expert info. Our love for eggs is forever expanding. XO.
THE NITTY GRITTY
(No conflicts of interest present in the above sources)