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It's Not That Simple

Thanks to a new test, checking for genetic abnormalities in a fetus is easier and less invasive — but there's a downside, says Nature News' Erika Check Hayden. Sequenom's new MaterniT21 Down syndrome test requires only a small sample of the mother's blood, and is only one of several similar tests expected to hit the market soon, Hayden says. While such tests spare women from amniocentesis or other invasive procedures, doctors say they pose other problems, Hayden says. "For instance, because it would take 8-10 days to get the results of Sequenom's test, if a woman did still opt for amniocentesis, and the result confirms that the baby has Down's syndrome, there would be little time left to decide whether to terminate the pregnancy," she adds. "And some women who test positive on MaterniT21 will probably choose to terminate pregnancies immediately rather than have amniocentesis." Ethicists are also concerned, saying easy screening methods could cause a worse gender imbalance, or could cause parents to face difficult decisions about whether to carry the pregnancy to term. "Other ethicists worry that fears of eugenics will be raised if testing can be done for less-serious conditions," Hayden adds.

Daily Scan sister publication Clinical Sequencing News has more on the MaterniT21 test here and here.

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