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British Baby to Be Breast Cancer Gene Free

A British woman will soon give birth to a baby guaranteed to be free of hereditary breast cancer. Out of 11 embryos, five were free of the breast cancer gene, and two were implanted in the mother.

The father had the gene, and his sister, mother, grandmother, and cousin all had cancer. Now, the breast cancer-causing gene has been purged from the couple's lineage. Of course the baby will be susceptible to environmental cancer-causing factors.

I worry that if genetic selection becomes widespread, we may forfeit diversity, while excluding useful genes from the pool. Of course, it makes sense that a mother chose the healthiest embryo during in vitro fertilization — I just wonder if we really know which embryo is the "healthiest" in the long run.

Is embryo screening a courageous way for parents to spare their children from painful diseases? Should the law address the moral issues accompanied with selective pregnancies? Could we end up making humans more susceptible to disease, if we manipulate the gene pool too much?


Join The Conversation
steldog1 steldog1 8 years
This is fabulous news. Can you imagine living under the very real threat (over 80% risk) of getting cancer? I can. My best friend's family, mother, aunts, sister, all got the same type of cancer. She decided to prophylactically have her breasts removed rather than die. Please don't tell me that she might have been lucky and not died. That's not a risk she wanted, or needed, to take. This mom made the best decision she could: to lessen the chance of her baby getting this cancer. She also lessened the chance of the gene being inherited by her grandchildren. Some say it's up to God to decide. I disagree. We were not created to be passive animals, but were given the ability to make decisions for ourselves. This mom did just that; she used science for a good cause. Good for her.
janneth janneth 8 years
I doubt there is any going back on the science of genetic selection. -Please look over the brochure, and then fill in the Parental Prenatal Choice form. -Oh look, dear, do we want blue eyes? Green? -I was thinking about choosing the musical gene, ok? -How about gay, straight, bi, transgender?
GlowingMoon GlowingMoon 8 years
I knew someone who developed breast cancer in her 20's, and she did not carry the gene either. So basically, this couple chose embryos that were the healthiest. I have mixed feelings about this. If the father's side of the family did this, then the father, his sister, his mother, his grandmother would never have been born. Because they carry that gene, they would not have been given life. So I guess the father would have been okay with this?? He would not have been born. As for me, I think this is immoral.
Roarman Roarman 8 years
I think we need to let mother nature run the show. Maybe that child would have never had breast cancer to begin with? Maybe she has the cystic fibrosis gene passed on by both of her parents, who knows? I think the effort should be focused on curing these diseases, not preventing them by mutatating and/or eliminating genes. What next all blue eyed, blond haired babies who are captains of the football team?
mazdagirluk mazdagirluk 8 years
I celebrate the science. Too bad the kid will live under the microscope of the media and scientific community for its whole life though.
LadyAngel89 LadyAngel89 8 years
I'm undecided on this one. I can see why a mother would want to try to rule out the gene because of the family history. If nothing else but to feel she done something to hopefully prevent her child from having cancer. And technically they did not alter the genes they just looked for the embryos that did not carry that gene and chose those for the IVF. And all cases of IVF generally result in more than one embryo being fertilized with an average of only two being implanted. So right now.. I don't see a problem with this... it's when they start trying to scientifically tamper with DNA that I'll start to be very concerned.
Jillness Jillness 8 years
"Though I will say that this is still only the first attempt, and scientists might learn something useful about cancer in the research. And the better we know why and how something develop, the more effective a cure would seem possible." I agree 100%!
chicagojlo chicagojlo 8 years
I am drawn on this issue - I think that we are in serious danger of taking science way too far, and that in time it will come back to haunt us. But that was before a friend of mine lost her baby at 38 weeks to a genetic condition that she and her husband had no way of knowing they were carriers of until this happened. The thought of them having to go through another whole pregnancy not knowing if it would happen again is just unbearable when you know they could have the same tests done on their embryos. It's hard to know where that line is once you have to face it yourself.
trésjolie1 trésjolie1 8 years
Thanks, Liberty, for such an interesting read. I'm all for science, really I am, but there are legitimate concerns as you all are pointing out. Our DNA are such intricate and sophisticated structures, and quite like an ecosystem, we might really do more harm with abruptly remove something that is potentially harmful. Though I will say that this is still only the first attempt, and scientists might learn something useful about cancer in the research. And the better we know why and how something develop, the more effective a cure would seem possible.
Jillness Jillness 8 years
My mother had breast cancer, and did not have "the gene".
lovelie lovelie 8 years
I think it would be natural that any expectant parent would want to shield their child from any disease/cancer if they had the option. However, like many of you have mentioned, where can the line be drawn?
lilkimbo lilkimbo 8 years
I have watched more than one family member die from cancer and they didn't carry the gene. If that's the case for someone, he or she may understand why many people think treatment options that can be used for everyone are more important to a lot of people.
flyinggrip flyinggrip 8 years
In the US about 10% of all cases of breast cancer are due to a mutation in either the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes. If a woman carries one of these gene changes her chance of developing breast cancer is 87% (vs. 8% in the general population), and her risk of developing ovarian cancer is 44% (vs. <1%). There are also risks for men who carry these gene change. While we do not have a cure yet genetic testing of at risk individuals can help catch cancer earlier or prevent it all together for these individuals. If you have watched many of your family members battle or die from cancer, you may understand why this one woman would want to protect her children from that fate.
Bettyesque Bettyesque 8 years
Its funny you say that Lilkim, I was thinking all the money that goes into things like this .. how do we not just have a cure. Is that not where the focus should be.
lilkimbo lilkimbo 8 years
The linked article says only 5% of Britain's breast cancer cases are caused by the genes that can be detected in embryos. I think concentrating our collective medical attention on how to treat and prevent non-genetic cases is much more important.
Bettyesque Bettyesque 8 years
This scares me.
LibertySugar LibertySugar 8 years
Thanks hypno. I changed the title to avoid confusing, just in case someone doesn't read the whole article. :)
stephley stephley 8 years
Isn't it something like 80% of all people who get breast cancer DON'T have the gene? It's so annoying to me that we're so advanced that we can manipulate genes to maybe eliminate one cause of a disease but we can't clean up our own environmental messes to prevent the majority of the cases. I guess it's more fun to pretend we're gods.
MartiniLush MartiniLush 8 years
whoa, I think this is starting down a slippery slope - where will this take us?
hypnoticmix hypnoticmix 8 years
Correction, British baby to be free of the gene that causes breast cancer. This does not guarantee that the child will not develop breast cancer as an adult but it does put the odds significantly in her favor.
syako syako 8 years
hello? God?
CaterpillarGirl CaterpillarGirl 8 years
something about the whole "selecting" babies thing doesnt sit right with me. I understand wanting a healthy baby, but then where do we draw the line?
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