Scientists have mapped the entire genome of a fetus using blood sample from the pregnant mother and saliva from father, reports NY Times. The feat was accomplished by genome scientists at the University of Washington and the paper has been published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.
This work could well open up an era wherein parents can get the whole blue print of their yet to be born offspring. As of now, the process would cost around $20,000 to $50,000 for one fetal genome mapping. The process would benefit and become more practical once cost of DNA sequencing falls and this is already happening. The research team claims that procedure may become more accessible and affordable for the common person within a matter of 3 to 5 years.
The sequencing technology described in the paper is unique, in terms of being able to detect and map even spontaneous mutations. The research team made use of high-speed DNA sequencing and statistical and computational programs to come up with fetal genome sequence with 98% accuracy. Professor Jay Shendure, supervisor of the research team, feel that the process could be improved upon and should be non-invasive (the genome mapping was done with blood samples of the mother at 18.5 weeks of pregnancy) if it has to appeal to people on a larger canvas.
The amazing feat of having the entire genome of your unborn child is nothing short of a miracle. Parents can now find out if their yet to be born has any genetic diseases. However, the issue that this new technology has brought forth surpasses the corridors of science and may interfere with nature, feel some. With this technology, humans may get to decide ‘who deserves to be born’.
The technology has put many issues on the table and apart from those connected with scientific ethics, unnecessary abortions takes the center stage. Some fear that there could be an increase in abortions once parents are given the blue print of their yet to be born child. Some parents may opt to abort a fetus that carries a genetic disease, and some parents may even have a go at it if their favorite trait is found missing in the gene map of their fetus. Parental preferences of traits may go on to decide the birth of a child.
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