Life immitates art: New process allows babies to be tested for 3500 genetic defects in the womb

June 7, 2012TECHA team has been able to predict the whole 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. They believe that, in time, the test will become widely available, enabling doctors to screen unborn babies for some 3,500 genetic disorders. At the moment the only genetic disorder routinely tested for on the NHS is Down’s syndrome. This is a large-scale genetic defect caused by having an extra copy of a bundle of DNA, called a chromosome. Other such faults are sometimes tested for, but usually only when there is a risk of inheriting them from a parent. By contrast, the scientists say their new test would identify far more conditions, caused by genetic errors. However, they warned it raised “many ethical questions” because the results could be used as a basis for abortion. The American scientists were able to map the baby’s genetic code principally from tiny traces free-floating DNA, which makes its way into the mother’s blood. Blood sample DNA from the mother was also studied as well as DNA extracted from the father’s saliva. Fitting pieces of the genetic jigsaw together, scientists in the US were able to reconstruct the entire genetic code of an unborn baby boy. They were then able to see what spontaneous genetic mutations had arisen. Such natural mutations – called ‘de novo’ mutations – are responsible for the majority of genetic defects. By checking their prediction of the baby’s genetic code with actual DNA taken after the birth, the team from the University of Washington in Seattle found they were able to identify 39 of 44 such mutations in the child. Dr Jay Shendure, the lead scientist, said: “This work opens up the possibility that we will be able to scan the whole genome of the foetus for more than 3,000 single-gene disorders through a single, non-invasive test.” In the future, a more refined and less costly version of the procedure could make pre-natal genetic testing far more comprehensive than it is now, the scientists say. –The Telegraph
Gattaca (c) 1997 Columbia Pictures  
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15 Responses to Life immitates art: New process allows babies to be tested for 3500 genetic defects in the womb

  1. Rachel says:

    “This work opens up the possibility that we will be able to scan the whole genome of the foetus for more than 3,000 single-gene disorders through a single, non-invasive test.”

    It also opens up the doors for more abortions. How sad that we only value life when there are no defects. Sad. Sad. Sad. The happiest people on the planet have Down Syndrome, but 90% are killed in the womb because WE say they wouldn’t have a good quality of life. I think we have it backwards. WE think OUR life would be inconvenienced by theirs.


  2. Betsy Weggesser says:

    Rachel…….I totally agree with you!!!!! This is crazy…. Can’t the scientists leave this alone???? GOD IS THE AUTHOR OF LIFE !!!!!!!!!!


    • Lulu says:

      I agree with you all. There is no such thing as perfection in natures ‘design’ – perfection is a defective fabrication of human (some people) beliefs. I deeply pity those vulnerable little beings who are deemed ‘damaged’ and removed from the opportunity to live, love and be loved.


  3. mike says:

    Its what the nazis wanted to be able to do history always repeats itself


  4. We are playing at being ‘God’ and that is so wrong.


  5. nanoduck says:

    Not a good thing. Most of these genetic defects are probably minor, and many people with these defects have normal, healthy life. Aborting babies just because they are not perfect is just plain wrong. This is sounding very much like the Nazi’s genocide program, where they tried to weed out the undesirables and encourage mating of the “more perfect” people.


  6. John F Cook says:

    Hey guys, sorry but I disagree. Since we became technological capable of ensuring the survival, and even breeding of virtually all babies born our gene pool has been going backwards from the perspective of average fitness and health. Combine this with an apparent tendency for intelligence to be negatively associated with number of children and disaster faces humanity. This technology allows for the most humane possible form of the basic “survival of the fittest” that we NEED as a species. Please Think a little as well as Feel about this.


    • Lulu says:

      I come from the perspective that if such ‘engineering’ was in existance in the past, now and for the future, my children, some of their cousins, and many members of (my) past, present and potentially future generations would be seen (regarding their inherited disabilities in varying degrees) as less valuable as human beings than those without recognised genetic ‘variances’, and possibly eliminated for being an unwanted percieved imperfect member of the human race. For some I know, their genius accompanying their ‘disabilities’ have enabled many of the scientific and technical discoveries of yesteryear and today; which many marvel at, utilize and depend on such knowledge and discovery to understand the human (and other) ‘condition’and experiences of today, tomorrow and beyond.


  7. Dennis E. says:

    Selective murder in the womb——looking for that perfect person———-no mental ill person will be allowed to be born or with any physical defect——or disease or cancer.
    Is that what this really means?


  8. The Watcher says:

    For every single innovation we conceive, humans will find 10 ways to abuse it. We all need to remember that we are, “the created”, not the Creator. Each one of God’s Creations are special in their own right. Isaiah 45: 9-10 was written alomst 3,000 years ago and we think we’re so smart.

    Isaiah 45
    9“Woe to the one who quarrels with his Maker—An earthenware vessel among the vessels of earth!
    Will the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you doing?’Or the thing you are making say, ‘He has no hands’?
    10 “Woe to him who says to a father, ‘What are you begetting? ’Or to a woman, ‘To what are you giving birth?’


  9. suz says:

    The age of genetics has arrived. I think it’s all part of our creator’s plan. He obviously feels we are mature enough and able to progress.
    Of course there is always the bad that can come with the good. It’s like that with everthing in life. We have free will and we are responsible for the outcome. That’s why we have to help shape the ethical foundation of this technology. It’s now possible to redesign the genes. We can now treat and cure these bad genes. Replace the Down Syndrome gene with a good gene. It’s not necessary to abort. The physical body is only a temporary home for our soul. You would fix a hole in your roof so you would be more comfortable so why not fix a bad gene so you can live more productively and learn more while you’re enjoying this earthly experience.
    God is giving us the power and the knowledge to do this and we should use it, but use it wisely. I doubt our creator intended to keep us under his thumb forever. His plan is for us to have knowlege, understanding, love and to evolve.


  10. carenla says:

    When I was pregnant with my daughter the doctors suspected something was wrong since my protein count was high. They kept me going for sonogram after sonogram and they wanted to do an amnio test even though there was a remote possiblity that the test could cause the baby to abort. When my husband and I went for the amnio test I was very concerned and I asked myself would the result of this test cause me to change anything regarding this baby in my stomach and my answer was abolutely not. Because the baby was full term but small she was very active in my belly with all the extra room available. As the nurse was about to stick that long needle in my belly she was hesitating as she glanced the sonogram I asked her why and she said the baby is very active.

    Right then and there my husband and I decided not to do the test and the doctor said she understood and that the couple before us also changed their minds about the test. My daughter was born with a slight birth defect (microtia) in one ear. She had about 4 major surgeries around age 6 to reconstruct her ear and to straigten one side of her jaw. One of these surgeries last 9 hours and each of the others about six.

    My daughter is now 11 years old as of last week and she is about to start middle school in the fall. She is the most beautiful and loving child I have ever known or imagined could come from me. I would not change a thing as it was all worth it. God has equipped her with all she needs in life and the doctor that took her cat scan at 4 days old said that is one strong baby as she fought him on the table. It is not up to us (the created) to choose who is acceptable in this world. Many of the most intelligent and strong people are also the most cruel, heartless, selfish, greedy, destructive, evil, wicked, hateful, unsharing people on the planet. I have yet to see the cold case file channel featuring a slightly handicapped or disabled murderer, ponzi scheme banker, kidnapper, thief or cannibal. If only the fittest survive then WE ARE ALL DOOMED!


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