This week, the first truly designer baby will be born in Britain. She's the offspring of a woman whose family had an incredibly high incidence of early breast cancer - all traceable back to a specific gene that causes a predisposition for the disease. Without intervention, her baby would have had a 50-80% chance of getting breast cancer.
So the woman, who wishes to remain anonymous, had her fertilized embryo (pictured) tested for the gene. She wanted to eradicate the gene from her family, and was able to do it by picking an embryo that did not contain the gene. Now she is guaranteed that her offspring does not carry this particular breast cancer-causing gene, called BRCA1.
According to the BBC:
[Fertility expert Paul] Serhal said: "The whole objective of this exercise is not just to make sure the child doesn't have the gene, but to stop the transmission from generation to generation."
He said it was "an exciting new era," adding that it would be possible to screen for any mutated gene which had been linked to a specific cancer.
But he said that, in this case, not carrying an altered BRCA1 gene would not guarantee any daughter born to the couple would be unaffected by breast cancer because there are other genetic and environmental causes.
Dr Alan Thornhill, scientific director of the London Bridge Fertility, Gynaecology and Genetics Centre, said: "While the technology and approach used in this case is fairly routine, it is the first time in the UK that a family has successfully eliminated a mutant breast cancer gene for their child.