Researchers have determined 98% of the genome of a fetus using only a blood sample from the mom, while pregnant, and a saliva specimen from the dad.
Jay Shendure at the University of Washington supervised the research team, which hopes their process will allow thousands of genetic diseases to be detected prenatally.
The researchers say their procedure could be widely available in three to five years. Others say it will take longer. At present, according to the University of Washington researchers, a fetal genome produced in this manner would cost $20,000 to $50,000 to acquire. Plus, they say, even greater accuracy is needed. Both lower cost and greater accuracy are expected in the years ahead.
When that happens, the ability to know so much about an unborn child is sure to raise ethical questions, as some parents may try to use the tests along with abortions to determine preferred traits for their children.
Bottom line: University of Washington researchers led by Jay Shendure have determined 98% of the genome of a fetus using only a blood sample from a pregant woman, and a saliva specimen from the father. The process ultimately will allow thousands of genetic diseases to be detected prenatally, while raising ethical questions.
Deborah Byrd created the EarthSky radio series in 1991 and founded EarthSky.org in 1994. Today, she serves as Editor-in-Chief of this website. She has won a galaxy of awards from the broadcasting and science communities, including having an asteroid named 3505 Byrd in her honor. A science communicator and educator since 1976, Byrd believes in science as a force for good in the world and a vital tool for the 21st century. "Being an EarthSky editor is like hosting a big global party for cool nature-lovers," she says.