Article written by guest writer Rin Mitchell

What’s the Latest Development?

Researchers have come up with a test that can detect the genome of a baby during its fetal stage. Samples of a mother’s blood and father’s saliva can give doctors insight as to whether or not a child will be born with some kind of genetics disease. Signs of complications can be detected at as early as 18.5 weeks of pregnancy. According to scientists, there are fragments of a fetus’ DNA present in a woman’s blood that can now be genetically analyzed. The same fragments already make it possible to identify fetal gender and paternity previous to child birth. However, the DNA fragments would need to be “distinguished from the far more numerous fragments that come from the mother herself.” Currently, this DNA blueprint is not available for use in medical institutions because there still needs to be more tests run to improve practicality and accuracy. If the fetal genome test was available to use today, the cost could range anywhere between $20,000-$50,000 dollars. In time, the cost could drop and the accuracy of such a detector could increase. 

What’s the Big Idea? 

For researchers to be able to tap into the DNA of a fetus, it would allow doctors to detect such disorders like cystic fibrosis, Tay-Sachs disease and Marfan syndrome—all of which can be inherited or arise out of the blue in the fetus. On the contrary, many are concerned that with this kind of detection device abortion rates could rise if parents knew beforehand that they would have a child with a serious medical condition; or even worse, if the child didn’t possess a gene the parents desired. According to an associate executive director of the Center for Genetics Society, a public interest group in Berkeley, California, this kind of testing would likely come down to “who deserves to be born.”