From the New York Times:
For the first time, researchers have determined virtually the entire genome of a fetus using only a blood sample from the pregnant woman and a saliva specimen from the father.
The accomplishment heralds an era in which parents might find it easier to know the complete DNA blueprint of a child months before it is born.
That would allow thousands of genetic diseases to be detected prenatally. But the ability to know so much about an unborn child is likely to raise serious ethical considerations as well. It could increase abortions for reasons that have little to do with medical issues and more to do with parental preferences for traits in children.
“It’s an extraordinary piece of technology, really quite remarkable,” said Peter Benn, professor of genetics and developmental biology at the University of Connecticut, who was not involved in the work. “What I see in this paper is a glance into the future.”
...The ability to sequence an entire fetal genome is likely to raise numerous issues. “There are some scenarios that are extremely troubling,” said Marcy Darnovsky, associate executive director of the Center for Genetics and Society, a public interest group in Berkeley, Calif. The tests will spur questions on “who deserves to be born,” she said.
Use of the approach could lead to an increase in abortions because some parents might terminate the pregnancy if the fetus was found to have a genetic disease. But it is also possible that parents may be tempted to terminate if the fetus lacked a favorable trait like athletic prowess.
“You could start doing things more toward the direction of positive selection,” said Dr. Stephen A. Brown, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Vermont.
Read the full story HERE.