Tuesday, 25 Nov, 2008 Health & Fitness

Diseases of Unborn Babies to be Revealed by Mother's Blood


It appears that quite soon doctors will be able to identify inherited diseases in unborn babies by simply analyzing blood sample taken from the mother.

It is worth mentioning that currently different diseases, including cystic fibrosis, thalassaemia and sickle cell anaemia are being diagnosed only with the help of such invasive technique as amniocentesis, which involves taking samples of a small amount of fluid found in the sac that surrounds a developing fetus. Amniocentesis is a procedure that may provoke miscarriage in 1 of every 200 pregnant women aged 35, and 1 of every 50 or 100 pregnant women aged 40.

In an article that was published in the journal "Proceedings of the National Academy of Science," researchers state that there were able to discover a method of diagnosing monogenic diseases in a fetus. According to the lead researcher, Professor Dennis Lo of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, all that is need for the diagnosis is a blood sample from the mother. Scientists compare the number of mutant genes against that of the normal genes.

A few years ago researchers found that the DNA of a fetus circulates in the blood of the mother. After the discovery a lot of scientists attempted to come up with the best way to part the DNA of the fetus from maternal DNA. No success was achieved until Lo and his team figured out the much anticipated technique. They say that their system is able to "bring non-invasive prenatal diagnosis of monogenic diseases closer to reality".

Scientists from Hong Kong and Thailand use a very precise digital blood-testing technology, which helps them count mutant and normal DNA sequences within maternal plasma. Thus they are able to estimate the chances of developing a monogenic disease. The lead researcher, however, mentioned that the accuracy of the system depends on the concentration of fetal DNA in mother's blood.

According to Dr Richard Nicholson of the Faculty of Health at the University of Newcastle, the method of Lo and his colleagues is a huge step forward towards non-invasive analysis of fetal DNA. He mentioned that today a lot of women do not want to undergo amniocentesis, which is why he considers that the new method has big chances of being soon used in clinics.

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