A team of scientists has made a breakthrough that allows doctors a way to predict the entire genetic code of a fetus and screen for 3,500 genetic disorders, raising concerns that the test could lead to more abortions, the Daily Telegraph of London
Unborn babies could be screened for 3,500 genetic faults by taking a blood sample from a woman who was 18 weeks pregnant, and a swab of saliva from the father. With the testing, scientists from the University of Washington have been able to predict the entire genetic code of a fetus. By checking the baby’s genetic code with actual DNA taken after the birth, scientists were able to identify 39 of 44 ‘de novo’ mutations, which are responsible for the majority of genetic defects and play a role in complex conditions such as autism and schizophrenia, according to the Telegraph.
The breakthrough was reported in the journal Science Translational Medicine. The lead scientist on the project, Dr. Jay Shendure, said: “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.”
The screening also was successful on a woman who was earlier in her pregnancy than 18 weeks, the Telegraph reported. The breakthrough is raising concerns, however, about what it could lead to when it becomes widely available. Josephine Quintavalle, founder of the Pro-Life Alliance, told the Telegraph, “One always hopes, vainly, that in utero testing will be for the benefit of the unborn child . . . But, whilst this new test may not itself be invasive, given our past track record, it is difficult to imagine that this new test will not lead to more abortions.”
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