Study: Testing Unborn Babies for Genetic Disorders

Prospective parents might soon be able to screen their unborn babies for thousands of genetic disorders, according to a study published by Science Translations Medicine.

This is potentially a two-edged sword. Although it might pick up more curable conditions, some experts worry that it may lead to more abortions

American scientists were able to map the babys genetic code form tiny traces of free-floating DNA in blood from the babys mother, who was 18 weeks pregnant. They were also able to pinpoint if the mutations came from the mother or fathers side.

If the technique is refined and the technology becomes inexpensive, as many experts predict, this type of prenatal testing could allow doctors to screen unborn babies for 3,500 genetic disorders by taking a blood sample from the mother and a swab of saliva from the father.

Now, the only genetic disorder routinely testing is Down Syndrome.

On the positive side, picking up genetic problems early may lead to better treatments, sometimes while the baby is still a fetus, sometimes right after birth and that might prevent complications, said NBC4 health expert Dr. Bruce Hensel.

Some experts believe the finding is a double-edged sword, and could potentially raise ethical concerns.

It might give peace of mind if (parents) dont find problems. On the other hand, it could lead to dilemmas what do you do about them can you treat them, might it lead to more abortions? Hensel said.

The genetic predictions in the study were confirmed by analyzing umbilical cord blood collected at the babys birth.

The test is not being used yet, and experts said the methods will have to refined before the screenings are widely used.

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Study: Testing Unborn Babies for Genetic Disorders

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