Scientists have developed a prenatal test for genetic defects much safer than the ones currently in use, reports the San Jose Mercury News. Methods like amniocentesis can spot chromosomal disorders like Down Syndrome, but involve inserting a needle into the uterus, which carries close to a 1-in-200 risk of miscarriage. The new method uses advancements in DNA science and requires only a blood sample from the mother.
The technique, which uses bits of fetal DNA in the mother's blood to count chromosomes, still needs to go through a larger clinical trial. "I am extraordinarily excited,'' said the senior author of the study of the new test, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. He said his wife was tested with more invasive procedures to screen for genetic defects during her two pregnancies. "Both were nerve-wracking experiences."