A baby DNA profile has finally been mapped whilst the child is in the earliest stages of child birth. A pregnant mother carries small quantities of the baby’s blood in her blood stream. It has been many years that scientists are working on a way of isolating the baby’s blood from the mother’s blood to be able to check whether the child will suffer from any genetic illnesses such as Down’s syndrome.
The advantages are several- first and foremost, the procedure is non-invasive. This is very much unlike current procedures of sampling the baby’s cells which include amniocentesis and Chorionic villus sampling (CVS). Both these procedures are invasive and require the mother to go under anesthetic and the surgeon to enter the womb either through the vagina or through the abdomen- the needle being guided by an ultrasound. The risks with both amniocentesis and CVS are miscarriage.
The sample of baby DNA in the mother’s blood is very small- in fact, only around 10% of the mother’s total blood plasma contains the baby’s DNA. This is enough for DNA testing. However, now the baby DNA can be separated from the mother’s blood plasma. Having isolated the DNA, scientists can then map the unborn child’s entire genetic profile.
However, there are certain ethical issues which always come to bear with these things. One of the main issues is whether parents that find out at the early stages of the mother’s pregnancy that their child will be handicapped in any way will opt for an abortion.
Moreover, some genetic abnormalities may not even be picked up by the test. Whichever the case, mapping baby DNA profiles during gestation has been a big step.