Researchers succeeded in creating the genome of a fetus 18 weeks into a pregnancy, with a blood sample from the mother and saliva from the father! This amazing success could eventually help create a comprehensive and risk-free test for thousands of genetic disorders. The research team from the University of Washington relied on a blood sample taken from the mother at 18 weeks to completely map the baby's genome. After the baby was born, they compared the map to the actual genome and found they were 98 percent correct in their quest. Dr Jay Shendure, who was a member of the research team, explained what can be done with these findings in the future.
He 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." Prenatal testing is already popular for Down Syndrome and several other genetic disorders, but it's not without risk at all. An amniocentesis carries the threat of premature birth or miscarriage. Where a genetic disorder is located, most parents opt to abort the fetus because ultimately, the possibility of not giving birth to a child with a genetic disorder is the main reason for carrying such tests out in the first place.
Hence, scientists though excited about the potential these findings hold also warn that fetal genome mapping could raise serious ethical questions and that these prenatal tests will be used in a way that society deems acceptable in the future. At the moment, work is ongoing to improve the accuracy of the technique, and to develop the possibility of screening for genetic tests that are currently untestable. Scientists found some false positives as well, so apparently there is quite a lot of work ahead. What is your opinion about this new discovery?