What's the Latest Development?
New non-invasive methods for sequencing the DNA of developing fetuses may soon be ready for mothers at high-risk of passing on genetic mutations to their children, says Illumina, the world's leading manufacturer of DNA sequencing machines. The new tests, which have already been used in more than 60,000 pregnancies, require only a blood sample from the mother. "Conventional methods for checking a fetus’s genome for abnormalities require invasive procedures, such as using a needle to withdraw some amniotic fluid surrounding the fetus or some cells from the placenta, methods that can sometimes cause a miscarriage."
What's the Big Idea?
The largest obstacle to creating better sequencing technology is cost, not the medical approach taken toward DNA. But as tests become more refined, trickier ethical issues are bound to crop up. "'Tackling just that single gene gets into different issues,' says Greg Heath, who manages Illumina’s diagnostics division. With a whole-genome sequence from a fetus, how do families handle knowing that their unborn child carries a genetic risk that may cause problems only late in life compared to mutations that will likely cause an early death?"
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