Parents-to-be may have one fewer risk-based decision to make during pregnancy. A company that develops prenatal tests says a blood test may be able to detect potential birth defects without the risks that the current test, amniocentesis, carries.
In a study published in the American Journal of Human Genetics, researchers at Verinata Health and Tufts Medical Center showed that the test detected chromosomal abnormalities in 11 pregnant women with no false positives and no false negatives.
Unlike amniocentesis, which uses a needle to retrieve amniotic fluid and causes a small number of miscarriages (about 1 in every 200-400 cases), the new test relies on genetic sequencing. Previously, the technique had been done only with tissue from the placenta.
"What's impressive about this paper is that they were able to do the same thing as microarray, which is of course totally invasive," Jacob Kitzman, a graduate student at the University of Washington, told Time. "There's zero risk from a blood draw and potentially this could be extended to expectant mothers who don't have access to clinicians who can do more invasive tests."