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J Perinat Med. 2012 Feb 13;40(4):319-27. doi: 10.1515/jpm-2011-0282.

Noninvasive prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome: current knowledge and novel insights.

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  • 1Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University Hospital of Heraklion, Crete, Greece.


The noninvasive prenatal diagnosis of trisomy 21 (Down syndrome) is an actively researched area of prenatal medicine, as this is the most common aneuploidy compatible with life and a major cause of mental retardation. The isolation of intact fetal cells, and most importantly, the successful detection of fetal-origin nucleic acids (cell-free fetal DNA and RNA), in maternal plasma even from the early stages of pregnancy has inspired scientists to develop discriminative genetic markers for the prenatal detection of aneuploidy. In the near future, the development of epigenetic fetal-specific markers will possibly allow the universal application of a cell-free fetal DNA-based diagnostic test regardless of the gender of the fetus or its polymorphic status. Other promising approaches rely upon the detection of free placentally derived RNA transcribed from genes located on chromosome 21 and the application of highly sensitive techniques, such as digital polymerase chain reaction and high-throughput shotgun sequencing. However, irrespective of which strategy is selected for isolating or distinguishing fetal genetic material in maternal plasma, the small quantity of fetal origin nucleic acids poses severe technical challenges. In this review article, we present an overview of the current knowledge in the field of noninvasive prenatal assessment of fetuses with Down syndrome and the future perspectives regarding new fetal markers and novel molecular techniques that may eventually be applied in the clinical setting as a valid and safe option for women who opt for noninvasive accurate prenatal diagnosis.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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