Unborn child’s DNA sequenced using parents’ blood, saliva

In a front-page story, the New York Times reports, “For the first time, researchers have determined virtually the entire genome of a fetus using only a blood sample from the pregnant woman and a saliva specimen from the father.”

This “accomplishment heralds an era in which parents might find it easier to know the complete DNA blueprint of a child months before it is born.”

The Los Angeles Times reports, “If the technique is refined and the technology becomes inexpensive – as many experts anticipate – this type of prenatal testing could provide prospective parents with a simple, risk-free way to screen for a broad array of simple genetic disorders, according to the authors of a report in Science Translational Medicine.”

The ABC News “Medical Unit” blog reports, “Scientists at the University of Washington took blood samples of a woman who was 18 weeks pregnant, and saliva from her partner to map the fetus’s DNA. The method was then repeated in another couple.”

The scientists “then reconstructed the genetic code of the unborn baby, then tested the accuracy of the results by using umbilical cord blood after the baby was born.”

Bloomberg BusinessWeek reports that the researchers found that “the experimental method was 98 percent accurate.” The research “was funded by the National Human Genome Research Institute and the Washington Research Foundation.”

The Time “Healthland” blog reports, “Jacob Kitzman, lead author and a graduate student in the department of genome sciences at the University of Washington (UW), was excited but cautious about his team’s achievement.”

According to Kitzman, “There have been a lot of steps toward this, but this is the first time capturing the whole genome.” He added, “The fact that this technology is now on the path to becoming clinically feasible is a good opportunity for a broader discussion of the implications.”

That’s the good news. The bad news, or at least my fear, is that this technology will be used to abort unwanted babies with genetic abnormalities. I’ve blogged on the topic before here:

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