Zain Rajani was born 22 days ago in Toronto, Canada. To say he was much anticipated would be an understatement—his parents, Natasha and Omar Rajani, had been trying for four years to get pregnant. Finally, they turned to in vitro fertilization, but Natasha’s eggs were a bit old. So her doctors tried a new mitochondrial replacement technique similar to the one hotly debated in the U.S. and the United Kingdom, according to an article from Time. Those debates are centered around “three parent babies” and, though the same technique was used in this case, Zain only has two parents.
Part of the reason Natasha, now 34, wasn’t getting pregnant was that her eggs weren’t of very high quality, which happens more frequently with age. But researchers figured out that they could remove the mitochondria from stem cells that develop into eggs, found in her own ovarian tissue. Then the stem cell mitochondria could replace the mitochondria in the old egg which, when fertilized, behaves like a younger egg and makes IVF treatments more successful. (Previous cases of mitochondrial replacement, which have not yet resulted in children, used mitochondria from a third person, but in this case the new mitochondria were from Natasha, as was the egg.) When Natasha and Omar did traditional IVF, they got only one viable embryo; using the new technique, they had four. One of those eggs became Zain, and the another two were frozen in case the Rajanis want to have another child.
Zain is the first of eight babies due this summer from the same technique around the world. Since it is considered gene therapy, it’s still not legal in the U.S., though the Time article suggests that more success stories like Zain may force the FDA to reconsider.