Saturday, May 13, 2006

First baby in Britain designed cancer-free - Britain - Times Online

First baby in Britain designed cancer-free - Britain - Times Online:

"First baby in Britain designed cancer-free
By Mark Henderson, Science Editor

A WOMAN is pregnant with Britain’s first designer baby selected to prevent an inherited cancer, The Times can reveal.

Her decision to use controversial genetic-screening technology will ensure that she does not pass on to her child the hereditary form of eye cancer from which she suffers.

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.

Critics argue that the action is unethical because it involves the destruction of some embryos that would never contract these illnesses if they were allowed to develop into children. Even those that would potentially become ill could expect many years of healthy life first, and some of the disorders involved are treatable or preventable."

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