First Cancer-Free Designer Baby in Britain

Posted on May 15, 2006

A new baby in England will be born without the inherited cancer gene found in her mother. The Times Online reports that doctors used a genetic-screening technology to keep a hereditary form of eye cancer from passing to the child from the mother.

Although they did not have fertility problems, the woman and her partner created embryos by IVF. This allowed doctors to remove a cell and test it for the cancer gene, so only unaffected embryos were transferred to her womb.

The couple are the first to take advantage of a relaxation in the rules governing embryo screening.

When the technique was developed in 1989 it was allowed only for genes that always cause disease, such as those for cystic fibrosis. However, it was approved last year for the eye cancer, which affects only 90 per cent of those who inherit a mutated gene.

The pregnancy will increase controversy over the procedure, which the Government�s fertility watchdog authorised on Wednesday for genes that confer an 80 per cent lifetime risk of breast and bowel cancer.

Eventually these types procedures will be common to insure that newborns do not possess hereditary cancers. The ethical concerns are that you will end up with a situation like that portrayed in the movie Gattaca where genetic engineering is used to predetermine everything about the child even issues like hair and eye color. The Times Online article says there are also concerns from religious groups concerned about the embryos that are destroyed in the screening procedure.

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