Prenatal Screening Not As Accurate As Once Thought

“Normal” Children Killed as “Defective”? Scientists conclude there is really no such thing as “normal” in genetic inheritance. New research has found that more genetic differences exist among people than previous research had indicated. In 2000 the international team of scientists working on the Human Genome project said that there was only a miniscule percentage of difference between people. At about the same time, genetic screening was introduced as a common feature of prenatal care and as part of artificial procreation in IVF facilities. The new research shows, however, that this screening is not as accurate as previously thought. In the new study, 270 volunteers from different countries were tested and the researchers found that the genetic continuance from parents to child is not as straightforward as previously thought. In fact, the conclusion seems to be that there is really no such thing as “normal” in genetic inheritance. This means that screens for genetic abnormality are unrealizable without a reliable standard of “normal.” The report, published in the journal Nature suggests that prenatal screening may have incorrectly diagnosed genetic abnormalities as defects. In the period since the growth of genetic screening, in both IVF and natural conception, fewer children are being allowed to live to birth because of suspected genetic defects such as Down’s syndrome. With abortion being available in many jurisdictions for any reason or no reason, a genetic test result with any kind of abnormality is often a death sentence for the child. The Globe and Mail quotes Steve Scherer, a senior scientist at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto and study co-author, “The genome is...

Gene, stem cell combination rebuilds damaged livers in mice (9/04)

Trial Therapy May Fight Human Genetic Disorders  — A combination of gene therapy and stem cell therapy may offer a new way to correct inherited diseases, says a University of Florida study. In research with mice with damaged livers, the scientists removed liver cells called progenitors that have the ability of stem cells to rebuild damaged organs. These progenitor cells were equipped with a healthy human gene and then placed back in the mice. The progenitor cells than began to rebuild the liver with cells that expressed the healthy human gene.   “The idea is that if we use a patient’s own cells, then we don’t have to look for a donor or worry about medications that may be needed to prevent the body from rejecting the therapy,” Bryon Petersen, an associate professor of pathology, immunology, and laboratory medicine, said in a prepared statement. “We’ve got the ability to basically take cells out of the patient, do our magic and put the corrective gene in, and then put those cells back into the patient. I think it goes back to the concept of self healing self,” Petersen said. [online issue of Hepatology, 9/04; The Human Genome Project has more about gene therapy. University of Florida, news release, September 2004; 28Sept04...