Prenatal genetic testing slowly becoming more common practice

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - Most parents only wish for one thing when it comes to bringing a baby into the world,  good health. Depending on diseases mom and dad may carry, the baby could also be at risk.

But what if you had the chance to know your baby's genetic makeup before birth to determine if the gene for a disease was passed down?

"There's this new class of tests to directly look at the baby's DNA from mom's blood," explained Dr. Greg Cooper, HudsonAlpha Faculty Investigator.

While you may not be able to identify everything, many genetic conditions are revealed through this kind of testing.  Researchers say this is a growing field of exploration.

Cooper says it's also more affordable to conduct these tests than ever. "It's simply because the technology was literally unaffordable unimaginably expensive 25, 30 years ago. It's now something similar to the cost of an MRI."

Researchers say while they are advancing in this field, there is still a lot that has yet to be discovered.

While these tests may sound convincing, they may also shed light on the unexpected.

"Now you run into the same challenge lots of different clinical tests have, uncertain results or people learning things that they had no idea what to expect or what not to," explained Cooper. "They might learn things that they had no concept they should be worried about."

Cooper said the tests have proven to be very effective and popular. So much so, that a lab on the HudsonAlpha campus is actively looking to expand into prenatal genetic testing.

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