New Technology Can Predict Babies' Abnormalities While Still in Womb

These scientific advances provide great news for expecting mothers.

Since its introduction, prenatal testing is slowly becoming the norm for monitoring an unborn baby’s health during the gestation period. Everything from examining the baby’s organs, measuring the baby’s head and brain, checking for cleft palates, and other health issues through congenital anomaly scans to checking whether the baby gets enough oxygen in the womb through biophysical exams, may all be observed through these tests. With a growing interest in non-invasive prenatal tests, scientists are working overtime in advancing these tests and providing more in-depth results.

Here are a few of the latest developments:

Natera Panorama gets cleared to accommodate testing in twin pregnancies.

Panorama testing, a non-invasive genetic testing that predicts a child’s chromosomal anomalies and screens gender as early as nine weeks into the pregnancy, has been around for a while. The global leader behind Panorama, Natera announced on January 29 that the test has been validated to screen twin pregnancies. This makes Panorama the first non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT) that can screen twin pregnancies for common genetic disorders such as Down syndrome, Edwards syndrome, and Patau syndrome.

In other related news, more Japanese clinics will begin offering services similar to Panorama, which detect chromosomal abnormalities. While these tests were introduced to the country back in 2013, clearance was not readily granted due to bioethical reasons, since more mothers opted for an abortion upon the discovery that their fetus tested positive for the abnormalities. The Japan Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology regulates the clinics permitted to administer these tests given that the medical institution came with counseling services.


Expectant mother’s urine may be used to predict fetal growth and birth weight.

A new research conducted by Bio Med Central Medicine shows that urine from mothers in their third trimester would test a panel of 10 urinary metabolites associated with fetal growth and birth weight. Metabolites are byproducts of the metabolic process excreted through urine. Abnormal growth and birth weight were said to be risk factors when it came to predicting diseases later in life, such as diabetes and obesity. These findings may help the mother and physician identify whether lifestyle changes need to be made for the baby’s benefit. Researchers warn, however, that the relationship between the lifestyle factors and metabolomic signature in the mother’s urine is a causal one or if there are specific lifestyle factors associated with an individual metabolite. The entire study may be found here.

Scientists are gunning for earlier diagnosis of autism through blood and urine tests.

Scientists from the University of Warwick in the United Kingdom and the University of Bologna in Italy are a step closer to diagnosing autism through blood and urine testing. According to CNN, the tests determined the disorder by identifying specific proteins linked to children with autism. Researchers conducted the experiment on 38 children with autism and 31 children without it, between the ages of five and 12.

Researchers warned that the study is weakened by the fact that the sample size is small and therefore limits their collected data.

“We have found that the power of measuring damaged proteins to the brain may be a cause for a development of autism,” said Professor Paul Thornalley from the University of Warwick.

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While the test, which was published in the journal Molecular Autism, is far from becoming clinically available, researchers hope that it might provide earlier diagnosis and treatment in afflicted children in the future.

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