The Gentle Fetal Genome
Can lab-on-a-chip technology enable extensive – yet noninvasive – prenatal screening?
William Aryitey |
Invasive testing on a fetus is never desirable but can be unavoidable, which is why so many researchers are working on new and improved noninvasive prenatal tests (NIPT). One such research team is using inertial microfluidics within a lab-on-a-chip device to collect circulating fetal trophoblasts in maternal peripheral blood (1). Here, we speak with Marnie Winter, first author and research associate at the University of South Australia, to find out how the method differs from existing NIPT.
What is the origin of your work?
We have been working in the field of rare cell isolation for a number of years, with a particular interest in the isolation of circulating tumor cells, which poses a similar technical challenge to the isolation of circulating fetal cells from pregnant women’s blood. Recently, the field of prenatal screening has been revolutionized by the introduction of NIPT based on circulating cell-free fetal DNA. The technique has now gained broad clinical acceptance for the detection of a number of common genetic disorders; however, the technology is limited. By relying on fragments of DNA in the maternal blood stream, such tests are unable to provide information on the full range of potential genetic abnormalities.
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