Researchers have developed a technique that could soon become widespread in British fertility clinics, to allow couples who both have the cystic fibrosis gene to opt for assisted reproduction. The method involves transferring only healthy embryos into the woman's uterus.
Cystic fibrosis affects many bodily functions including breathing, digestion and reproduction, because the glands which produce mucus, saliva and intestinal fluid do not operate properly. Although the average life expectancy for someone with cystic fibrosis has improved since the 1960s from five years to 31, three people die from the disease every week.
One in 25 people in Britain carries the cystic fibrosis gene. If a couple both carry the gene they have a one in four chance of having a baby with cystic fibrosis.
Scientists from the Academic Hospital in Maastricht, the Netherlands, told the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology that the technique offered an alternative for women whose pre-natal diagnosis left them with a choice between abortion or a child with cystic fibrosis.
The technique is available only privately at Hammersmith Hospital, London.