New genetic fetus test reduces miscarriage risk: study

WASHINGTON - A new prenatal test to detect genetic disorders such as Down's Syndrome could render current riskier procedures 'obsolete,' according to new research published on Monday.

By (AFP)

Published: Tue 7 Oct 2008, 10:50 AM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 11:10 AM

The new method, developed by researchers at Stanford University and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, California requires a simple blood sample from the mother to spot chromosomal disorders.

The test examines fragments of fetal DNA in the mother's blood.

"Right now, people are risking their pregnancies to get this information," said Yair Blumenfeld, a postdoctoral medical fellow in obstetrics and gynecology and co-author of a paper describing the technique.

Current prenatal gene tests carry a small risk of miscarriage, as the sampling requires inserting a needle in the uterus.

"Non-invasive testing will be much safer than current approaches," said Stephen Quake, professor of bioengineering and the study's senior author.

Not only is the new test safer, but researchers suggest it will be able to spot genetic problems earlier in gestation than other methods.

The new technique scans for fetal aneuploidy in the maternal blood sample, which is an abnormality in the number of fetal chromosomes.

Humans typically inherit 46 chromosomes, half from each parent, and errors in the chromosome number result in serious problems in physical and mental development, such as Down's Syndrome.

The research team said the test would benefit from wider applications if it continues to get positive results.

"This technique is on the leading edge of a flood of different ways that rapid DNA sequencing will be used in medicine," Quake said.

The study is published online Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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