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In The Works: A Blood Test for Down syndrome?

Publication Date: 
January 31, 2011
Source: 
Los Angeles Times
Author: 
Amber Dance

Professor Hank Greely's entry in January's edition of Nature was mentioned by the Los Angeles Times in the following article on testing fetuses for Down syndrome:

Women may soon be able to find out very early in their pregnancies whether they are carrying a fetus with Down syndrome by offering a simple blood sample.

The safe, noninvasive test would pose fewer risks to the mother and fetus than amniocentesis or chorionic villus sampling (CVS), the two tests currently used for prenatal diagnosis. It would also give women more time to decide what to do if a diagnosis of Down syndrome is made.

...

Although Down syndrome may be among the earliest genetic blood tests, more are sure to follow, and that will force doctors, patients and regulators to grapple with difficult questions, Henry Greely, director of the Center for Law and the Biosciences at Stanford Law School, wrote this month in the journal Nature.

Should couples be able to use such tests to find out about a fetus' eye color, talents or temperament? Will detailed testing lead to widespread abortion of imperfect fetuses, and would society devalue disabled people as a result? The time to answer these questions is now, Greely says.