Two women are set to become the first to have their embryos screened for the faulty breast cancer gene to prevent their children from contracting the disease.
The unprecedented tests will be carried out because the parents concerned have a family history of the illness.
By selecting embryos free from the gene that carries a heightened risk of the disease, doctors will in effect be creating 'designer babies'.
An application to test for the BRCA1 gene was submitted yesterday by Paul Serhal, from University College Hospital in London.
If the application can prove that the screening process in these cases will prevent the babies from contracting breast cancer, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority will almost certainly approve the procedure.
The body had already agreed to allow the screening process in principle in May last year.
Should the licence be awarded, the couples will have IVF treatment. This will allow a single cell to be removed from the embryo at the eight-cell stage, and tested for the defective BRCA1 gene.
Only unaffected embryos will then be transferred to the womb....