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Genetics

Unborn babies could be tested for 3500 genetic conditions

Blood and saliva samples from parents could predict thousands of genetic conditions in unborn babies.

US SCIENTISTS SAY unborn babies could be routinely tested for thousands of genetic conditions without disturbing either the mother or the foetus.

A team of scientists have been able to determine the genetic code of a foetus by taking a blood sample from a woman who was 18 weeks pregnant and a swab of saliva from the father.

The findings published in the journal Science Translational Medicine state that the test, which is non-invasive, will make it possible to scan for some 3500 disorders without physically disturbing either foetus or mother.

The new test can detect ‘de novo mutations’, which are not inherited, but are thought to play a role in complex conditions such as autism and schizophrenia.

Some conditions, such as Down’s syndrome, can already be detected prior to birth.

A spokesperson from the Pro-Life Campaign in Ireland told TheJournal.ie that there was a danger that the information from the new genetic test could be used to put the lives of many unborn babies at risk.

In January it was reported in the Irish Times that the Beacon Medical Group is to open a new clinic in Dublin that would offer pre-implantation genetic diagnosis. This is the first time a clinic has offered such a service in Ireland and could test embryos for conditions such as Huntington’s disease, haemophilia and cystic fibrosis.

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