New Procedure Predicts Characteristics Of Unborn Babies

Researchers at the University of Washington have developed a new test that detects the genetic characteristics of unborn babies.

The revolutionary test uses a blood sample from a pregnant mother and saliva from the father. This technique could become an alternative to procedures like amniocentesis. Researchers say this test can diagnose the same genetic disorders as invasive processes, but it does so non-invasively.

The test could one day be a routine screening tool for more than 3,000 genetic disorders. Researchers said the test is currently 98 percent accurate.

Along with its many advantages, this test also opens the door to a host of ethical concerns. Parents could potentially get information on genetic markers that might increase the risk of heart disease or certain types of cancer. Critics of the procedure have concerns about the ethical issues that might arise from this.

"We can tell you your fetus is going to be born deaf. Some people may say I don't want a deaf child. Other people may say the child's still otherwise a normal child. Where do we draw the line?" a critic of the procedure said.

Researchers said the technology is not ready to be used. They are moving forward with research with the hopes that doctors will soon be able to diagnose and treat disorders before they ever appear.