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Britain's First Breast Cancer Gene-Free Designer Baby Born

The first baby girl in Britain to have been screened before conception for a genetic form of breast cancer has been born, doctors said on Friday.

While a first in Britain, the strategy has been used elsewhere across the world to screen for the cancer-related BRCA1 gene variant, and the technique has also been previously applied by British doctors to avoid the transmission of other cancers and diseases.

In the current case, doctors at University College Hospital in London (UCL) had created a number of embryos through in vitro fertilisation (IVF) for the baby's parents and screened them for the variant BRCA1 gene.

Women who carry this genetic variation have an 80 percent chance of developing breast cancer and a 60 percent chance of suffering ovarian cancer during their lifetime, and the couple's children were at very high risk of inheriting the gene. However, carrying the gene does not make cancer inevitable.

"This little girl will not face the spectre of developing this genetic form of breast cancer or ovarian cancer in her adult life," said Paul Serhal, Medical Director of the Assisted Conception Unit at UCL.

"The parents will have been spared the risk of inflicting this disease on their daughter. The lasting legacy is the eradication of the transmission of this form of cancer that has blighted these families for generations."

The mother and baby girl, who have not been identified, are doing very well.

The embryo was chosen using preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), which involves testing cells to see if they contain the faulty gene. An embryo found not have the gene was then implanted into the mother.

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), the regulator which had to approve the procedure, said the chosen embryo had not been genetically manipulated or programmed.

Click here to learn more about the BRCA1 gene.