June 7th, 2012
05:24 PM ET

Baby's DNA constructed before birth

Mom gave a blood sample. Dad spit. The entire genome of their fetus was born.

Researchers at the University of Washington have, for the first time, done a near-total genome sequence of a fetus in this way.  Scientists published the results of this study in the journal Science Translational Medicine, suggesting that thousands of genetic diseases could be detected in children while they are still in the fetal stage.

Everyone has two copies of the human genome: One inherited from their biological mother and one from the biological father. With technology that's being used for genetic sequencing these days, it's not possible to say which variants on the chromosome you inherited from which parent.

Scientists also sequenced the cell-free component of the mother's blood - called the plasma - where about 10% of the DNA circulating is from the child, and the other 90% is from the mother. That introduces some difficulty, since it's hard to tell exactly what comes from the child.

Currently at least some component of diagnosis for genetic disorders in certain circumstances is done using technologies such as amniocentesis, which involves taking a sample of the fluid in the sac that surrounds the fetus in the womb - the mother has to have a needle inserted into her uterus, which is a lot more complicated than a simple blood test and carries some health risks.

"This might reduce the need to do invasive testing for fetuses," said Jay Shendure, associate professor of genome sciences at the University of Washington.

The focus of the study was the genome of a fetus whose mother's blood sample was taken at 18 weeks. The analysis of her blood, the father's saliva and the plasma contributed to a nearly full picture of the fetus's genome.  This model showed that the fetus had 39 mutations that it had not inherited from either parent.

To confirm, researchers looked at the baby's umbilical cord blood after it was born. In comparing the constructed DNA (from mom & dad's samples) and this cord sample,  researchers found five additional mutations that hadn't come from the mother or the father.  On the whole, the baby's artificially constructed genome using material from the parents was more than 98% accurate.

Researchers repeated the procedure on a different couple. This time the mother was only eight weeks pregnant when she donated her sample, and the father submitted a blood sample, which was processed in the same way that the other father's saliva was. This resulted in a fetal genome sequence that was 92% accurate.

"We could have brought it higher just by sequencing her plasma more deeply," said Jacob Kitzman, lead study author and graduate research fellow at the University of Washington.

There are also parts of the genome that technology available today just cannot measure very well, Kitzman says, so that's partly why there's not a 100% accuracy here.

Is gender selection of a fetus ethical?

Eight weeks are, however, well before mothers are able to get amniocentesis, which is often used at around 16 weeks.

It took more than a month to get the results from the sequencing, which is a lot longer than would be ideal in a clinical situation, Kitzman noted. In order to become more widespread, the technique would have to be easier to administer, quicker and less expensive.

So how much does this cost? Right now, in the ballpark of $50,000, Shendure says - and while that seems like a lot, keep in mind that this whole process involved sequencing the genomes of the mother and the father, separately analyzing the plasma and then double-checking the result with a sequence from the child's umbilical cord.

The price tag for sequencing has dropped by 10,000 fold in the last five years, Shendure says, so he expects this fetal genome technique will also become less expensive over time.

In the long-term, the technique may even help garner new insights about genetic diseases, but more immediately it would be restricted to identifying the genetic disorders that we already understand, he said.

"Whether this is the sort of thing we would do on a widespread basis for all pregnancies, that’s an open question and a complex one," he said.

The complexity comes, of course, from the ethical issues that arise concerning parents who would selectively abort fetuses that are predestined for certain conditions.

The technology worries medical ethicist Harriet Washington, who fears parents could use genome sequencing to predict and selectively abort children that don't meet certain standards - not just for diseases, but for things like hair and eye color.

“If we don’t look at the dangers, if we adopt this Pollyanna attitude and only look at the benefits, then it’s really easy to end up in a situation where we are blindsided,” Washington said.

Perhaps one day, even intelligence scores or skills could be forecasted, creating a situation akin the movie "Gattaca" where babies are basically custom-created to suit the needs of parents who can afford the technology.

What do you think about all this? Share your thoughts in the comments.

soundoff (1,645 Responses)
  1. confidence coach near me


    June 22, 2021 at 02:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Sprinter Van Repair Shops


    June 22, 2021 at 04:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. executive training


    June 22, 2021 at 05:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. pharmaceptica.com

    who makes hydroxychloroquine win https://pharmaceptica.com/

    June 22, 2021 at 07:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. RV And Camper Repair Near Me

    Spot on with this write-up, I really feel this amazing site needs much more attention. Iíll probably be returning to see more, thanks for the info!


    June 22, 2021 at 09:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Sprinter Van Mechanic Shop


    June 22, 2021 at 09:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Municipal Vehicle Repair


    June 22, 2021 at 11:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. RV Mobile Repair Near Me

    Pretty! This was an extremely wonderful post. Many thanks for supplying these details.


    June 22, 2021 at 12:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Velia Jotblad


    June 22, 2021 at 15:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. wolverine podcast

    Excellent article! We will be linking to this great post on our site. Keep up the good writing.


    June 22, 2021 at 15:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Specialty Van Repair Shop Near Me

    I blog quite often and I truly thank you for your information. This great article has really peaked my interest. I'm going to take a note of your site and keep checking for new information about once a week. I opted in for your Feed as well.


    June 22, 2021 at 15:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. ben maller podcast

    Good post. I will be going through some of these issues as well..


    June 22, 2021 at 22:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. RV Repair Shops Near Me


    June 22, 2021 at 22:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Video Marketing Consultant

    I want to to thank you for this good read!! I certainly enjoyed every little bit of it. I have you book marked to look at new things you postÖ


    June 22, 2021 at 23:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Internet Marketing Experts Near Me


    June 22, 2021 at 23:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. snap judgement podcast


    June 23, 2021 at 01:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. RV Tire Repair Near Me

    Excellent post! We will be linking to this great article on our site. Keep up the great writing.


    June 23, 2021 at 02:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. dopey podcast


    June 23, 2021 at 02:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Social Media Marketing Specialist Near Me

    I really love your site.. Great colors & theme. Did you build this website yourself? Please reply back as Iím attempting to create my own website and want to find out where you got this from or exactly what the theme is called. Cheers!


    June 23, 2021 at 02:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. RV Body Repair Near Me

    Way cool! Some extremely valid points! I appreciate you writing this post and also the rest of the website is very good.


    June 23, 2021 at 02:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. RV Fiberglass Repair Near Me


    June 23, 2021 at 02:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Content Marketing Boutique


    June 23, 2021 at 03:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Internet Marketing Agency


    June 23, 2021 at 03:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Digital Marketing Services

    Good blog you have here.. Itís difficult to find quality writing like yours these days. I really appreciate individuals like you! Take care!!


    June 23, 2021 at 04:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Social Media Marketing Specialist Near Me

    Aw, this was an incredibly nice post. Spending some time and actual effort to make a top notch articleÖ but what can I sayÖ I hesitate a whole lot and don't seem to get nearly anything done.


    June 23, 2021 at 07:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Social Media Marketing Specialists


    June 23, 2021 at 08:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Digital Marketing Firm


    June 23, 2021 at 08:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Content Marketing Firm


    June 23, 2021 at 08:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Digital Marketing Services

    Good post. I am experiencing a few of these issues as well..


    June 23, 2021 at 09:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. RV Repair Store Near Me

    That is a good tip particularly to those new to the blogosphere. Brief but very accurate informationÖ Appreciate your sharing this one. A must read article!


    June 23, 2021 at 09:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. science friday podcast

    Hi, I do think this is a great web site. I stumbledupon it 😉 I am going to come back yet again since i have saved as a favorite it. Money and freedom is the best way to change, may you be rich and continue to help others.


    June 23, 2021 at 10:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. RV Repair Service Near Me

    Good blog you have here.. Itís hard to find high quality writing like yours nowadays. I really appreciate people like you! Take care!!


    June 23, 2021 at 13:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Digital Marketing Businesses

    This is the right blog for anyone who hopes to understand this topic. You realize a whole lot its almost hard to argue with you (not that I personally would want toÖHaHa). You certainly put a brand new spin on a subject that has been discussed for years. Wonderful stuff, just excellent!


    June 23, 2021 at 15:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. RV Water Repair Man Near Me

    Saved as a favorite, I really like your website!


    June 23, 2021 at 15:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Social Media Marketing Agencies

    Saved as a favorite, I really like your blog!


    June 23, 2021 at 17:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Emergency RV Repair Near Me

    Aw, this was an extremely nice post. Finding the time and actual effort to make a top notch articleÖ but what can I sayÖ I put things off a whole lot and never seem to get nearly anything done.


    June 23, 2021 at 18:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. car dealers near me


    June 23, 2021 at 18:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. kohls near me


    June 23, 2021 at 18:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. store near me

    Hello, I think your website might be having web browser compatibility problems. Whenever I take a look at your website in Safari, it looks fine however when opening in Internet Explorer, it has some overlapping issues. I simply wanted to provide you with a quick heads up! Aside from that, wonderful blog!


    June 23, 2021 at 20:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. Google Marketing Company


    June 23, 2021 at 21:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. RV Generator Repair Near Me

    Saved as a favorite, I love your website!


    June 23, 2021 at 22:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. RV Repair Parts Near Me


    June 23, 2021 at 23:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Content Marketing Service

    Great site you have here.. Itís hard to find quality writing like yours nowadays. I honestly appreciate individuals like you! Take care!!


    June 23, 2021 at 23:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. Best RV Repair Shop Near Me

    That is a good tip especially to those fresh to the blogosphere. Simple but very precise infoÖ Thanks for sharing this one. A must read post!


    June 24, 2021 at 02:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. carmax near me


    June 24, 2021 at 02:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Video Marketing Service


    June 24, 2021 at 02:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Internet Marketing Mechanics


    June 24, 2021 at 03:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. Video Marketing Company

    I used to be able to find good advice from your blog articles.


    June 24, 2021 at 04:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. RV Repair Services Near Me

    Hi, I do believe this is a great website. I stumbledupon it 😉 I will revisit once again since i have book-marked it. Money and freedom is the greatest way to change, may you be rich and continue to help others.


    June 24, 2021 at 04:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. Local Marketing Agencies Near Me

    Can I just say what a comfort to uncover an individual who really knows what they're discussing over the internet. You actually understand how to bring an issue to light and make it important. More and more people need to read this and understand this side of the story. I was surprised that you aren't more popular given that you surely possess the gift.


    June 24, 2021 at 05:41 | Report abuse | Reply
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29

Leave a Reply to South Haven Michigan Mercedes Sprinter Repair Near Me


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.