Plot twist: Mitochondrial DNA can come from fathers too
Typically, humans inherit mitochondria and mitochondrial DNA from their mothers only. But using sequencing data from the mitochondrial genomes of members from three unrelated families, researchers have identified 17 individuals who inherited mtDNA from both parents. The results were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Taosheng Huang, a pediatrician and medical geneticist who heads the Mitochondrial Diseases Program at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, stumbled upon the first individual with mtDNA from both his parents by accident. The patient, a four-year-old boy who had some symptoms of a mitochondrial disorder, including fatigue and exercise intolerance, had come to be evaluated by Huang. The doctor sent his blood sample to the hospital’s diagnostic lab for mtDNA sequencing. The results revealed that the boy appeared to have two populations of mitochondrial genomes, both at a relatively high level.

“My first instinct was that this was a mistake-even though I’ve never, in six years, seen our diagnostics lab make a mistake like this,” says Huang. He asked the patient to come back, drew a fresh blood sample himself, then sent the blood to the diagnostics lab, an in-house research lab, and an independent laboratory for sequencing. “We saw the same result come back from all three labs. That’s when I said, ‘Ok, this must be real.’”

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