New test on way for foetal defects

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The Independent Online
Safer techniques for the diagnosis of certain prenatal disorders may be on the horizon, according to a report in the latest edition of the Lancet.

A study of 43 pregnant women revealed the presence of foetal genetic material in the mother's plasma, a location that previously had been overlooked, according to researchers from Britain, Italy and Hong Kong. As a result, it should become possible to screen women early in pregnancy for abnormalities carried by the father using a simple blood test, the researchers wrote. "It would mean that a proportion of women might be spared an invasive genetic diagnosis," said Dr James Wainscoat of the John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford."People had never anticipated that DNA from the foetus is mostly present in the plasma rather than in the cellular part of the blood." Current methods of testing for abnormalities rely on tests like amniocentesis which carries a risk of miscarriage.