British doctors are celebrating the birth of a baby genetically engineered against breast cancer.
The little girl, who has not been named, grew from an embryo which had been screened against a faulty gene which normally means a possible 85 percent chance of developing the cancer. “This particular family has been blighted with cancers for many generations, so (were) rather traumatised by this effectively very serious disease which can kill people,” said Paul Serhal, the medical director at University College London. “So they decided to go down the route of testing the embryo pre-conception, i.e. we tested the embryo when it was a cluster of cells and selected the embryo which does not carry this genetic abnormality.” The technique has already been used to screen embryos from inherited disorders like cystic fibrosis and Huntingdon’s disease. However, breast cancer is different in that it does not inevitably affect a child from birth, and may not ever develop at all. Cancer charities say it raises complex moral issues, involving engineering human and medical qualities.