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The British cancer free baby

For ages, doubters and doomsday experts have been warning about the need for controls and ethical balances on scientific research; one of the items they have been warning about is the concept of ‘designer babies’ where a person can specifically decide what are the properties they want in their babies. This is balanced with the thought that, if science can determine and eliminate the cause of cancer right at the stage of conception, then why not take such action in the interest of sparing these children much suffering later in life. In this current case, science helped in the birth of a child who was screened as an embryo to ensure that she did not carry a specific gene (link to story):

The first child in Britain known to have been screened as an embryo to ensure she did not carry a cancer gene was born Friday, a spokesman for University College London told CNN. Her embryo was screened in a lab days after conception to check for the BRCA-1 gene, linked to breast and ovarian cancer. People with the gene are known to have a 50-80 percent chance of developing breast or ovarian cancer in their lifetimes.
“This is not a cure for breast cancer,” said Josephine Quintavalle, co-founder of Comment on Reproductive Ethics, which describes itself as group that focuses on ethical dilemmas related to reproduction. “This is simply a mechanism for eliminating the birth of anybody (prone to) the disease,” she said. “It is basically a search-and-kill mechanism.” She opposes the procedure because embryos found to carry disease-causing genes often are discarded. She says that is essentially murder. “They will be destroyed,” she said. “They will never be allowed to live.”

For some time now, scientists have been testing babies for genes that carry genes known to cause cancers. The difference was that in this case, the complication was that the embryos were screened for a gene that does not always cause cancer (it increases the probability that the person will have cancer, but there are people who have lived with this gene and not developed cancer). This is the first time that this happened in Britain.

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