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The Distance

The Chinese University of Hong Kong's Dennis Lo tells The Observer that, back in 1997 when he and his colleagues published their finding that fetal DNA could be found in the mother's bloodstream, he was astonished that people "didn't realize how far this technology could go. They thought you could use it only to tell the sex of the baby."

Now there are a number of prenatal diagnostic tests on offer from a number of companies, including Sequenom, which licensed Lo's findings, and some researchers are moving toward sequencing the whole genomes of fetuses.

The Observer notes that Lo seems wary of such a move and wonders whether parents could be counseled properly. "Do you tell them about a disease their child might get in 40 years' time when we don't know what medicine will be like then?" he says. Lo instead suggests a more targeted approach focused on a few serious genetic diseases.