SureBaby Blog

New Genetic Screening Test Stirs Up Controversy!

Posted by Alissa Robson

Is there ever such a thing as too much information when it comes to your unborn baby? New research on the foetal genome has many in the medical community asking.

Scientists have succeeded in constructing a complete foetal genome using only a saliva swab from the father and a blood sample from the mother. The research could lead to the ability to screen for over 3,500 genetic disorders in utero.

Using sophisticated DNA sequencing methods and statistical and computational analysis, the scientists were able to use the samples from the parents of a baby boy (yet-to-be born) to construct the genome, then examine what genetic mutations had presented.

Their work was then tested using actual DNA after the baby was born, and they were found to have identified 39 of 44 mutations.

While this research is still a long way from being absorbed into prenatal screening – currently, it’s very costly and is still in development – it is already ringing alarm bells in the medical community, as well as in the general public.

Some believe that the findings in the test could lead to increased abortions, as it opens a wider window into genetic testing and prenatal screening than currently exists. Right now, screening is only available for a handful of genetic disorders, including Down’s syndrome, cystic fibrosis and spina bifida.

Advanced testing also involves risk, as it involves collecting fluid from the fetal sac – often, this puts many parents off of doing the test. A non-invasive test like the one conducted in this study may be more easily adopted by more parents-to-be.

Researchers in the study have pointed out that “As in other areas of clinical genetics, our capacity to generate data is outstripping our ability to interpret it in ways that are useful to physicians and patients.”

In simpler terms, it may mean our technology is getting out of sync with our ethics.

What do you think? Is more information a good thing when it comes to genetic screening? Would your decision on following through with a pregnancy be influenced by the results of a comprehensive screening test?

We’d love to hear your thoughts on this hot-button issue in the SureBaby comments.

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