London - The first baby without a breast-cancer gene has been born in the UK. Dr Paul Serhal, head of the Assisted Conception Unit at the University College Hospital in London, announced this on Friday.
The unnamed mother is the first woman in the United Kingdom to have a baby selected free of a gene which causes breast-cancer. "The mother and her little girl are doing very well," said doctors at University College London (UCL) of the baby born Friday -- who grew from an embryo screened to ensure it did not contain the faulty BRCA 1 gene.
The baby's unnamed 27-year-old mother decided to take the step because several of her husband's close female relatives suffered from breast cancer.
Any daughter born with the BRCA 1 gene has an 80% risk of developing breast cancer and a 60 per cent chance of developing ovarian cancer - as well as a 50% risk of passing on the anomaly to their own children.
"This little girl will not face the spectre of developing this genetic form of breast cancer or ovarian cancer in her adult life," said Serhal.
"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," he said.
The procedure was carried out using a technique known as pre-implantation genetic diagnosis which has already been used here to screen embryos resulting from in vitro fertilisation for disorders like cystic fibrosis.
It was given the green light in Britain in 2006.
Serhal said: 'This is a landmark technique that has been clinically improved and developed over the past few years and can now be offered as a successful option to other couples who carry this genetic abnormality."
The embryo screening took place in April and two embryos were implanted out of five found to be gene free.
The couple were among three who signed up for the testing because a family history of breast cancer. It is understood that one woman failed to become pregnant and another decided not to go ahead with the full screening.
Mr Serhal's clinic has one of the highest conception rates in Britain for fertility treatment and has pioneered the use of genetic screening or pre-implantation diagnosis. Until now, many women who inherit the breast cancer gene have undergone radical surgery to remove their breasts.
Pre-implantation diagnosis involves removing a cell from an embryo when it is three days old.
Around 1,000 babies have been born using this screening method including those free of cystic fibrosis and the neurological Huntington's disease. Eight centres in Britain offer pre-implantation diagnosis to couples from families with a history of inherited diseases.
Photo: Dr Paul Serhal, who is of Lebanese origin , heads the Assisted Conception Unit at the University College Hospital in London.
Tags: Lebanese Origin, Lebanon, UK