October 24th, 2010
The field of genetics nursing recently gained a new weapon in the fight to identify potential genetic disorders in newborns. In this new test, blood is drawn from the mother while the baby is still in her womb, and then its genetic code is analyzed and compared to known profiles of genetic disorders.
What does this mean for genetic nursing practices?
Well, it means that, if the test is successful over a large number of subjects (it currently works ‘in principle’ based on one experimental instance), then the need for invasive procedures, such as amniocentesis, would no longer exist, and testing for genetic disorders could be done without disturbing the fetus in the womb.
At least, that is what scientists in China hope can happen.
During screening of a couple, the scientists tested and successfully found that the procedure worked in this instance. Testing found that the baby had, in fact, inherited a genetically defective gene from its father and the normal gene from its mother. The baby was confirmed to carry the disease.
In principle, the procedure takes advantage of trace amounts of foetal blood in the mother’s blood. It then requires that the scientists analyze the mother’s genetic sequences in her blood, straining them to find the foetal genetic signatures within. Once the scientists have located and isolated those signatures, they can then examine them for signs of genetic disorders.
However, the obstacles that must be overcome in order for this procedure to work are many. In the first place, the process of sorting through the double layer of genetic codes will significantly increase both the complexity of the process as well as the time needed in order to complete it. And even then, scientists will still have to deal with the uncertainty of diagnosis that accompanies some of the harder-to-discover genetic disorders.
Still, if the test is capable of being replicated and is successful in more cases, it could very well change the face of genetics disorders, and especially how genetics nurses interact with their patients. Gone will be the need for invasive procedures, which require nurses to take an active role in prepping the subject; instead, genetics nurses can focus more on other aspects of the situation, such as counseling the couple regarding steps to take should the test come back positive. In any case, this is a good thing for genetics advancements.
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