In 2009, Shoukhrat Mitalipov, Masahito Tachibana, and their team of researchers developed the technology of mitochondrial gene replacement therapy to prevent the transmission of a mitochondrial disease from mother to offspring in primates. Mitochondria contain some of the body's genetic material, called mitochondrial DNA. Occasionally, the mitochondrial DNA possesses mutations. Mitalipov and Tachibana, researchers at the Oregon National Primate Research Center in Beaverton, Oregon, developed a technique to remove the nucleus of the mother and place it in a donor oocyte, or immature egg cell, with healthy mitochondria. The resulting offspring contain the genetic material of three separate individuals and do not have the disease. Mitalipov and Tachibana's technology of mitochondrial gene replacement built on decades of research by different scientists and enables researchers to prevent the transmission of human mitochondrial diseases from mother to offspring.
Shoukhrat Mitalipov, Masahito Tachibana, and their team of researchers replaced the mitochondrial genes of primate embryonic stem cells via spindle transfer. Spindle replacement, also called spindle transfer, is the process of removing the genetic material found in the nucleus of one egg cell, or oocyte, and placing it in another egg that had its nucleus removed. Mitochondria are organelles found in all cells and contain some of the cell’s genetic material. Mutations in the mitochondrial DNA can lead to neurodegenerative and muscle diseases. Mitalipov and Tachibana used spindle replacement to produce healthy offspring from an egg with mutated mitochondria in rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta). The experiment showed that spindle transfer eliminated the chance of transmission of mitochondrial diseases from the affected primates to their offspring, offering the potential to eliminate mitochondrial diseases in humans.
Carl Gottfried Hartman researched the reproductive physiology of opossums and rhesus monkeys. He was the first to extensively study the embryology and physiology of reproduction in opossums when little was known about this mammal. Hartman worked in Texas where opossums, the only marsupial that lives in North America, were abundant. The female opossum delivers her fetal opossums in her pouch, where one can easily observe their development. After studying opossums for thirteen years, Hartman investigated the reproductive physiology of rhesus monkeys, also known as macaques. This research led to the discovery of when ovulation occurs, as well as its relation to the human menstrual cycle. Later research on scientific methods of birth control relied heavily on Hartman 's discoveries about primate and human reproduction.