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“Cell-free fetal DNA testing” has revolutionized prenatal genetic testing by relying on a maternal blood sample that poses no risk to the fetus
I have two children. All I know about their genes right now is that they both have 46 chromosomes and one is KSI and the other is XXX.
Types Of Genetic Screening
I try to treat them equally, I assume equal potential. But what if I knew my daughter had the “smart” gene and my son didn’t? If she came home from school with a B, would I assume it’s just her genes and not making it harder for her to work? And what if I had known that before he was born, when he was just a little finger on the ultrasound? To be honest, I’m not sure I would trust myself with that information.
New Prenatal Genetic Testing Could Predict Your Baby
Of course, such knowledge is not yet possible. First, we still haven’t found many genes that can reliably predict intelligence. And now, even if we knew what genes we were looking for, we wouldn’t find them very early in pregnancy. But thanks to a new type of fetal genetic testing, that could change.
It used to be that everything about your baby was a surprise until birth. Is it a boy or a girl? Does he (or she!) have all 10 fingers and toes? And most importantly: is the child healthy? Genetic disorders – Down syndrome, trisomy 18 and others – were often a surprise in the delivery room.
We may still be involved in the ritualistic counting of our new baby’s fingers and toes, but it’s all for show: indeed, we checked them out with an ultrasound a few months ago. For many women, genetic testing during pregnancy ruled in or ruled out the possibility that their child would have a genetic abnormality.
Recently, the introduction of “cell-free fetal DNA testing” has further changed the landscape of prenatal genetic testing. You may have heard of these tests under their names: Harmony or MaterniT21, among others. The technology is largely the same for all: they are based on a maternal blood sample that does not pose a risk to the fetus, and their accuracy approaches that of a fetal diagnostic test such as amniocentesis or chorionic villus sampling (CVS), but without the risk to the fetus. In other words, these new tests offer the best of both worlds and a recipe for moral decay.
Genetic Screening Test
Prenatal genetic testing, however imperfect, is not new. Since the 1970s, amniocentesis has allowed doctors to detect genetic disorders in the womb, usually mid-pregnancy. Over the next decade, CVS offered an alternative to amniocentesis, which could be done earlier in pregnancy—in the first trimester rather than the second—and provided similar information. These two procedures provide complete genetic information about a fetus—laboratories can literally sequence its entire genome.
This means that although they are most often used to detect the most common genetic disorders such as Down syndrome, they can in principle be used to detect minor genetic abnormalities or even normal genomic variations such as a predisposition. for red hair. (Such uses are rare, mind you, since both procedures are invasive and pose little risk to the fetus.) Historically, the alternative has been prenatal screening, based primarily on ultrasound, which is not dangerous to the fetus, but not dangerous to the fetus either. they specifically diagnose the problem, so they must be followed by one of the invasive procedures if a problem is suspected.
The fact that we can determine the characteristics of a baby in the womb, along with the possibility of abortion, has always made some people nervous. This suggests eugenics or the future of “designer babies”. This is not all a fictional concern: in some countries, prenatal sex determination and sex-selective abortion have changed the overall sex ratio of the population (in China, for example, in recent years 120 boys are born for every 100 girls). But the fact is that generally, and especially in the US, prenatal screening is limited to serious genetic disorders—the risk of harm to the fetus outweighs the value of the information for other purposes.
But new prenatal screenings are changing the game. They represent a major technological advance because spotting a child’s DNA is the key to identifying problems or genetic risks. Amniocentesis and CVS accomplish this with amniotic fluid or placental material, both of which contain fetal cells and thus fetal DNA. But that means going into the uterus — usually with a needle — and actually taking some cells. And that comes with risk.
Prenatal Genetic Testing
Some fetal cells also circulate in the mother’s bloodstream during pregnancy – this is not new – it’s just that the amount of fetal cells in the mother’s blood is very small, which makes their practical use difficult. The technological breakthrough was the recognition of “cell-free fetal DNA” – that is, fetal DNA outside the cells.
When cell-free DNA is isolated from maternal plasma, 10-20% is of fetal origin. Conventionally, this means that researchers can be sure that much of the material they isolate comes from the fetus. In principle, if maternal and fetal DNA can be simply separated, the entire fetal DNA could be sequenced using this procedure.
The technology isn’t quite ready yet, but the procedure currently works by looking for things in cell-free DNA that wouldn’t be there if that DNA was just the mother’s.
Think about it in terms of sex: women have two X chromosomes; men have one X and one I. Imagine looking at your mother’s cell-free DNA and finding a bunch of Y chromosomes. The baby will be a boy, right? If you don’t see any I chromosomes, it’s a girl.
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Similarly, a fetus with Down syndrome has three copies of chromosome 21, not two, but two copies of all other chromosomes. So if you look at a mixture of fetal and maternal DNA from a genetically normal mother and see relatively more copies of chromosome 21, you would suspect that the child has Down syndrome. If any chromosomal imbalance is severe enough, the test results indicate a potential problem.
Currently, these tests are below what is possible with an amniocentesis or CVS test. One way to narrow them down is to focus on just the three most common trisomies: Down syndrome (trisomy 21), trisomy 18, and trisomy 13. Invasive testing detects other trisomies and can detect other types of chromosomal problems. Another disadvantage: both false negative and false positive results are possible.
This procedure is based on a statistical threshold test: sufficiently unbalanced and the test pings “positive”. It’s not unbalanced enough, it seems negative. However, the imbalance in the number of chromosomes is not striking enough to be flagged as a positive test, even if the child has chromosomal abnormalities. This is called a “false negative”. On the other hand, some chromosomes look unbalanced in the sample, but the baby is fine. This is called a “false positive”.
False negatives are quite rare with these new blood tests – a woman in her early 30s who tests negative for this screening has about a 1 in 90,000 chance of having a child with a chromosomal abnormality. This test also has false positive results. limited but more important. For the same woman in her early 30s who tested positive, the chance of having a child with the chromosomal problem is approximately 66%. In other words, one in three women who get results showing abnormalities will actually have a genetically normal baby.
To Test Or Not To Test?
Experts agree that decisions related to pregnancy should not be made without a subsequent invasive test. But this is likely to be a temporary problem. Actually, the problem is genetic sequencing ability and statistics. These tests are already almost perfect in gender identification. It also improves the accuracy of genetic predictions. It is unlikely that these tests will be used as diagnostics for more than a few years.
As these tests improve, so do the number of conditions they detect. Last year, researchers reported a case where they used a version of this test to detect a small genetic problem called a microdeletion. The maternally transmitted effects of this microdeletion increase the risk of nearsightedness and mild hearing loss. A mother who participated in the research found out that she had passed on her poor eyesight and poor hearing to her child.
In principle, this technology could be used to identify anything for which we know a genetic link. Scientists conducting gene-level association studies (GVAS) have made progress in recent years in identifying some of the genes that code for intelligence. Imagine you’ve been tested and know you carry one of these intelligence genes, but unfortunately your spouse doesn’t. Now imagine being able to easily find out if your fetus was yours
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