Evolution of Fetal Testing Discussed

How many baby cells are circulating in your blood stream? Not many. Out of each million, or maybe even 10 million cells in your blood stream, one belongs to the baby when you are pregnant. Sort of a challenge to find the one cell out of ten million that would reveal the inner DNA secretes of a developing baby. Needles in haystacks used to be easier to find than fetal cells in mom’s blood stream. So for the past three decades we have tried to understand the health of the baby by investigating fetal proteins in mom’s blood. Proteins are huge molecular structures, we have no trouble finding proteins with current medical technology. So we began by studying (AFP), then adding a few other tests and now the “AFP” test has become the “Quad Screen” blood test women get around 4 months of pregnancy as a birth defect screening test. There are new tests all the time. Maybe we can’t find a single fetal cell, but we can seem to detect fragments of DNA and RNA, mostly from the placenta and not technically from 'the baby.' The placenta implants in the wall of the uterus and very early on in the first three months there is actually another physical way some fetal cells can cross from the fetus, to the fluid, then across to the edge of the placenta and in fact work their way to the cervix. Just like a pap can capture cells shed from the cervix, in early pregnancy, baby cells are there too! Again the numbers, so small. So researchers from Wayne State, Drs Imudia, Kumar, Diamond, DeCherney and Armant have come up with a new technique: “IUL”. Intrauterine lavage…swooshing some fluid in this area to encourage a few extra fetal cells off that implantation site. Testing a fetal cell now has the potential to be no more uncomfortable and slightly less difficult than having a pap smear for this group of researchers. One cautionary note: the test is just information. It is not designed to treat a condition just yet, so moms and dads have to determine if genetic information on their developing pregnancy is important to them. The testing also has to be done in light of all your medical genetic history so that you are sure to get the most effective test possible.

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