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Medical News & Perspectives
October 8, 2008

Prenatal Genome Testing Sparks Debate

JAMA. 2008;300(14):1637-1639. doi:10.1001/jama.300.14.1637

New technologies that allow scientists to rapidly analyze a person's genome for potentially deleterious variations are now being used by at least 1 company and an academic medical center for prenatal testing, igniting a debate among scientists about the clinical value and ethical implications of the procedure.

As data emerge from early clinical studies that use microarray comparative genomic hybridization for prenatal diagnosis (Sahoo T et al. Genet Med. 2006;8[11]:719-727 and Shaffer LG et al. Prenat Diagn. 2008;28[9]:789-795), proponents of the testing are beginning to offer this expensive service more broadly. But because such tests may provide parents with ambiguous information, some scientists question their clinical value and express concern that the procedure offers false assurances to parents at a vulnerable time.