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A mother's curse... (Health and Nutrition)


Each cell of the body contains tiny engines which generate energy; these are called the mitochondria and they are essential to life. They contain their own DNA, which is always inherited from the mother and can be associated with genetic disease.

Professor Gemmell of the University of Otago, New Zealand calls this the “mother’s curse” as sons with deleterious mitochondrial mutations have to make the best of it; there is no evolutionary mechanism to clear out these mutations.

As the mitochondria in part affect male fertility the evolutionary injustice of a female holding male fertility to ransom has been pointed out by Professor Gemmell.

He could be right, though on balance we have a lot more to thank our mothers for!

- Dr Neil Sullivan

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