Avoiding transgenerational risks of mitochondrial DNA disorders: a morally acceptable reason for sex selection?

Annelien L. Bredenoord*, Wybo Dondorp, Guido Pennings, Guido De Wert

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

34 Downloads (Pure)


In this article, we discuss sex selection not intended to help a couple avoid having a child with a severe genetic disorder, but to avoid possible health risks further along the line of generations. Sex selection may be put to this use in the context of preventing mitochondrial DNA disorders by means of preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) and possibly in the future also through nuclear transfer (NT; also known as mitochondrial gene replacement). A relevant analogy can be found in the context of PGD for X-linked diseases, where sex selection against healthy female carrier embryos would have the same 2-fold purpose of (i) avoiding difficult reproductive decisions for the future child and (ii) avoiding transmission of the mutation to a possible third generation. Because sex selection would still be done for reasons of health, this application should not give rise to the moral concerns associated with sex selection for non-medical reasons. However, the proportionality of adding the relevant procedures to PGD or NT is a relevant concern. We discuss post-and preconceptional sex selection strategies. We conclude that if PGD is already part of the procedure, either as the central technology or as a back-up test after NT, preferentially transferring male embryos could in principle be a morally acceptable way of reducing possible burdens and risks. To start an IVF/PGD-cycle especially for this purpose would be disproportional. The alternative approach of preconceptional sex selection may be morally justified as a means to increase the chances of obtaining male embryos.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1354-1360
JournalHuman Reproduction
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2010


  • sex selection
  • mitochondrial DNA disorders
  • transgenerational effects
  • ethical considerations


Dive into the research topics of 'Avoiding transgenerational risks of mitochondrial DNA disorders: a morally acceptable reason for sex selection?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this