Tests of Parents Are Used to Map Genes of a Fetus
For the first time, researchers have determined virtually the entire genome of a fetus using only a blood sample from the pregnant woman and a saliva specimen from the father.
Jay Shendure, a professor at the University of Washington, supervised the research team.
The accomplishment heralds an era in which parents might find it easier to know the complete DNA blueprint of a child months before it is born.
That would allow thousands of genetic diseases to be detected prenatally. But the ability to know so much about an unborn child is likely to raise serious ethical considerations as well. It could increase abortions for reasons that have little to do with medical issues and more to do with parental preferences for traits in children.
“It’s an extraordinary piece of technology, really quite remarkable,” said Peter Benn, professor of genetics and developmental biology at the University of Connecticut, who was not involved in the work. “What I see in this paper is a glance into the future.”
The paper, published Wednesday in the journal Science Translational Medicine, was written by genome scientists at the University of Washington. They took advantage of new high-speed DNA sequencing and some statistical and computational acrobatics to deduce the DNA seq