With the raging success of Twilight and True Blood, the masses of entertainment junkies out there have joined a well-established movement in the scientific community to make the most out of blood. There are a ton of potentially useful biomarkers floating around in our veins and the non-invasive sampling process has made blood a crowd favorite for diagnosing a number of disorders. Prenatal diagnostics is no exception. Any parent out there will agree that nothing can cause a 20 point increase in blood pressure faster than seeing large needles anywhere near your unborn child.
Since fetal DNA can be detected in maternal plasma, a number of research teams have been hot on the idea of identifying fetal biomarkers from mom’s blood to use as an alternative to chorionic villus sampling (CVS) and the dreaded “amnio.” Recently, DNA methylation has emerged on to the radar of many of these teams seeking useful differences between placental and maternal genomes that can be assayed non-invasively. But with an incomplete understanding of tissue specific methylomes, identifying rock solid biomarkers can be a bear.
Scientists at the U of Pittsburgh and Magee–Womens Research Institute recently stepped up to the challenge and compared DNA methylation patterns from CVS samples and maternal blood cells from first trimester samples. The team first digested the samples with MspI/HpaII before profiling the differential profiles on Agilent custom microarrays and found several candidate markers on chromosomes 13, 18, and 21, which are often defective in genetic disorders.
Scope out the full details at Prenatal Diagnosis, 2009.