A couple who underwent IVF treatment and had the embryos screened for hereditary breast cancer are expecting Britain's first baby to have had the cancer-causing gene removed.
The expectant parents decided to screen the embryos and remove the inherited gene BRCA-1 because the baby's father, his sister, mother, grandmother and cousin all had the cancer. Of the 11 embryos produced, five did not have the gene and two of these were implanted.
The deputy medical director of the Bridge Fertility Centre in London, described the technique as "an exciting development".
"It opens the door to a lot of questions about screening of diseases that might happen in the future," Laurence Shaw said. "This a great piece of technological advance and very exciting for the family concerned.
"However, we should be aware that this does not mean that the baby born will be immune from breast cancer - it means that the baby with that gene has a decreased likelihood of having that cancer."
About 5% of the 44,000 cases of breast cancer diagnosed in Britain each year are estimated to be caused by the BRCA-1 and BRCA-2 genes, both of which can be detected in embryos. Doctors believe that thousands of cases of breast cancer could be avoided by screening.