New DNA-based Prenatal Test

Another company has launched a non-invasive DNA screen for genetic disorders in unborn babies, adding to the competition in an emerging market.

By | March 1, 2013

FLICKR, ABBYBATCHELDERCalifornia-based startup Natera this week (February 27) announced the launch of Panorama, a commercial test for chromosomal abnormalities with a sensitivity similar to riskier, more invasive methods, reported a Nature blog. The new test adds to a growing fleet of non-invasive genetic screens for pregnant women to detect chromosomal disorders in their unborn child. Performed on a drop of blood from the mother-to-be, the tests are a risk-free alternative to techniques like amniocentesis and chorionic villus sampling, both of which carry a risk of miscarriage.

Joining Verinata, Sequenom, and Ariosa, Natera is the fourth company to offer this type of product for women at high risk of having babies with Down’s syndrome and other genetic disorders. And with US health insurers such as Aetna and Wellpoint planning to cover the tests, the market could be worth billions.

Of the four tests currently available, Verinata’s verifi ($1,500) and Sequenom’s MaterniT21PLUS ($2,762) screen for the widest range of disorders, including those associated with and extra X or Y chromosome. Natera’s Panorama can detect a missing X chromosome but no other kind of sex chromosome irregularities, and costs $1,495. All of the tests, including Ariosa’s Harmony ($795), can identify a fetus with Down’s syndrome, caused by three copies of chromosome 21, more than 99 times out of 100.

For the moment, most experts—and many of the companies themselves—still urge women who get positive DNA-test results to follow up with more conventional tests. That means invasive procedures and all the attendant risks, of course, but “you are limiting those invasive tests to only the high risk groups,” Joan Scott, a genetic counselor and executive director of the National Coalition for Health Professional Education in Genetics in Lutherville, Maryland, told the Nature blog.

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Avatar of: PD


Posts: 18

March 1, 2013

It is unbelievable to me that the author of this article finds the need to give prices of the tests.  You can therefore see that money is driving this industry. 

Any mention of what is normally done with positive results? Right now, 90% of couples in the US with a Down's syndrome diagnosis in utero will decide to abort without knowing the full truth about Down's kids and, many times, with pressure from their doctors.  This is truly a shame. 

I encourage everyone to learn more about kids and adults with Down's.  They are extra special people who bring a unique gift of much needed love to our society.  If we offer these types of tests we should make it mandatory to also offer the truth about Down's syndrome.  The majority of family's with a Down's child say their lives have been enriched and are better off having experienced the love from these important people.

Avatar of: Neurona


Posts: 70

March 1, 2013

PD: The vagaries of life mean that even a "normal" child can be transformed into a special needs child by accident or illness.  Every parent takes that risk.  But not everyone is emotionally or financially equipped to support a special needs child who is a foregone conclusion based on prenatal testing. It's simply a fact.  People have the right to draw their own lines. While I personally would not abort a Down's fetus, I would abort an anencephalic fetus.   

Avatar of: Knall


Posts: 2

March 1, 2013

So if people have the "right" to draw their own lines, does one have the "right" to kill their child disabled because of accident or illness, if unable emotionally or financially to continue to support them? Or the newborn baby or elderly relative that's being cared for, who might be/become an emotional or financial burden? No person has that "right" to eliminate a human being just because they're deemed imperfect, or a financial, emotional, or inconvenient burden.

I can tell you from personal experience (I have a disabled son), and from knowing people who have had their disabled children die right after birth, that this is not the path we should be taking. It's a slippery slope we should not be going down. We should be offering people support in these situations (perinatal hospice, caregiving options, financial help, emotional support, etc).

It saddens me that we're so bent on making life "perfect" in every way, that we eliminate the most vulnerable of our population, and eliminate those experiences which might make us feel uncomfortable. Yet, those very experiences might lead us to be more truly loving human beings as well........


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