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A Pap smear can scoop up fetal cells for genome testing

The technique may be helpful for treating some disorders before birth

7:00am, November 22, 2016
9 week ultrasound

EARLY DAYS  This ultrasound is of a 9-week-old fetus. A new test using fetal cells obtained from a Pap smear can scan a fetus’s genome as early as five weeks.

Scanning a fetus’s genome just a few weeks after conception may soon be an option for expecting parents. Mom just needs to get a Pap smear first.

By scraping a woman’s cervix as early as five weeks into a pregnancy, researchers can collect enough fetal cells to test for abnormalities linked to more than 6,000 genetic disorders, researchers report November 2 in Science Translational Medicine. It’s not clear exactly how fetal cells make their way down to the cervix, says study coauthor Sascha Drewlo of Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit. But the cells may invade mom’s mucus-secreting glands, and then get washed into the cervical canal.

Current prenatal tests include amniocentesis and chorionic villus sampling, but they work later in pregnancy: at least 12 weeks

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