Thursday, March 23, 2023
Mitochondrial Health

Female fertility, reproductive ageing, and mitochondrial diseases

Mary Herbert is the pioneering scientist behind ‘three person IVF’.

In this talk, she outlines the challenges behind normal female reproduction and how her work with developing mitochondrial replacement therapy is providing hope for women who carry maternally inherited genetic diseases.

The ‘three parent babies’ born from mitochondrial replacement therapy (MRT) have genetic material from three people: two parents, and one female donor who gives their healthy egg mitochondria to be used instead of the mother’s.

Following five years of laboratory work, Professor Herbert and her team developed the skills to manipulate the cells during this process until around 9 in 10 survive the process, and around half of the resulting zygotes successfully develop to the blastocyst stage, meaning the chances of pregnancy with this method following in vitro fertilisation, or IVF, are reasonable, and that the child will be free from genetic disease.

Professor Herbert also outlines the complexity of women’s bodies in female reproduction, from the mechanisms that protect eggs from birth to highly evolved cohesin depletion mechanisms that deliberately lower fertility in older females.

Read more from when the technology was first licensed in The Guardian

Professor Herbert is Professor of Reproductive Biology at Newcastle University. She gave this presentation ‘The female germline: a tale of triumph and tribulation’ as part of the Academy of Medical Sciences New Fellow’s Admissions Day 2019, held on 26 June. On this day, the Academy welcomed 57 Fellows for their formal admission.

Read more about Professor Herbert’s work
Newcastle University website:

For more information about New Fellows Day 2019, visit

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