A new pre-natal test that researchers say will allow doctors to screen a pre-born baby for thousands of potential genetic defects has pro-life leaders concerned that thousands more babies could be targeted for abortion. UPI News reported that the new, non-invasive test, developed by genome scientists at the University of Washington, uses a blood sample from an expectant mother and a saliva swab from the father to predict the entire DNA makeup of a pre-born baby.
Currently Down Syndrome is the only disorder for which genetic testing is currently done. But with the new science, doctors could potentially detect some 3,500 disorders. A report published in the journal Science Translational Medicine said that the reconstructed prenatal genome in the research was 98 percent accurate compared to post-natal results in two separate pregnancies.
“This work opens up the possibility that we will be able to scan the whole genome of the fetus for more than 3,000 single-gene disorders through a single, non-invasive test,” Dr. Jay Shendure, associate professor of genome sciences at the University of Washington and the lead researcher in the study, told ScienceDaily.com. Researchers said that such disorders as epilepsy, schizophrenia, and some cases of autism and intellectual impairments could all be potentially detected using the new test.
The New York Times reported that at present the process is not affordable enough to make it practical in a clinic or hospital setting. “The University of Washington researchers estimated that it would cost $20,000 to $50,000 to do one fetal genome today,” reported the Times. “But the cost of DNA sequencing is falling at a blistering pace, and accuracy is improving as well. The researchers estimated that the procedure could be widely available in three to five years. Others said it would take somewhat longer.”
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Photo: Doctor with ultrasound equipment during ultrasound medical examination via Shutterstock