NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Scientists at Wayne State University will use funding from the National Institutes of Health to conduct genetic studies of human fetal cells with the goal of developing a new diagnostic technology that could enable earlier fetal testing than current methods, the university said on Friday.
The researchers plan to use the $418,000 grant from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development to fund efforts using non-invasive transcervical sampling to collect cells from trophoblasts, which surround the blastocyst and contain fetal DNA, within the first two months of pregnancy.
DNA analysis will then be used to determine if these early placental cells collected from the cervix at as early as six to 12 weeks, using a method similar to a Pap test, accurately represent the chromosomal status of the fetus, Wayne State said.
According to investigator Randall Armant, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Wayne State's School of Medicine, tests from fetal cells could help doctors discover risks for ectopic pregnancy, miscarriage, preterm labor, preeclampsia, and others, and chromosome disorders such as Down syndrome.
Such tests also could be used to detect inherited genetic diseases, such as muscular dystrophy, sickle cell anemia, and hemophilia.
"The earlier you get the information, the more time the doctor has to manage whatever problems are coming up during or after the mother's pregnancy," Armant said in a statement. "It also gives the parents more time to make decisions about the pregnancy."
Armant also said that the diagnostic platform for detecting chromosome disorders "could establish an innovative approach for prenatal genetic testing that would provide immense opportunities for improving the health of mothers and their babies."