Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Choose The Future: Embryonic Screening

Couples in the UK can now choose to have a baby free of certain genes that increase the propensity for select diseases. Through a method called embryonic screening:
The couple produced 11 embryos, of which five were found to be free from the gene. Two of these were implanted in the woman’s womb and she is now 14 weeks pregnant.
Doctors screened out from the woman’s embryos an inherited gene that would have left the baby with a greater than 50% chance of developing [breast] cancer.

While the risks of developing cancer are often overstated (reporters sometimes overemphasize the genetic factors), this is nonetheless fantastic news. Here again we see a technique that applies to a specific problem that could be adapted to many others.

The story doesn't specify who developed the technique [researchers at Guy's Hospital in London], but hats off to the couple's physician, Dr. Paul Serhal, medical director of the Assisted Conception Unit at University College London hospital, for his courage in electing to use it.

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