New blood test could tell mother sex of unborn child as early as FIVE WEEKS
Researchers warn test has potential for encouraging sex-selection
Pregnant women could find out whether they are carrying a boy or a girl as early as five weeks, after scientists developed a pioneering non-invasive test.
A team at Cheil General Hospital in Seoul, South Korea, found that various ratios of two enzymes, which can be extracted from a pregnant mother's blood,
indicate the baby's gender as early as five or six weeks.
Boy or girl Ultrasounds can reveal a baby's sex at around five months. Invasive testing can work at 11 weeks but now scientists say they can halve that time
The study authors, led by Dr Hyun Mee
Ryu, said knowing the sex early is important if the mother is a carrier
of an X-chromosome gene that can cause a disease like muscular
dystrophy or haemophilia.
Female foetuses are either free from
the disease or are carriers, but a male has a 50 per cent chance of
inheriting the disease and parents may choose to abort the pregnancy.
However, the team warned: 'This method might promote the potential
for sex selection. Therefore, there should be careful consideration
about the use of this analytical tool in clinical situations.'
Current tests in the UK can not be peformed until 11 weeks and carry a one to two per cent risk of miscarriage as they require a sample from the amniotic sac that protects the foetus.
Meanwhile ultrasounds do not reveal a baby's
outward genitalia, and therefore the gender, until well into the second trimester, and even then
they can often be read incorrectly.
Writing in the January edition of The
FASEB Journal, Dr Hyu said their test could 'reduce the need for
invasive procedures in pregnant women carrying an X-linked chromosomal
abnormality and clarify inconclusive readings by ultrasound.'
The researchers collected maternal
plasma from 203 women at the Cheil General Hospital during the first trimester of their pregnancies between 2008 and 209. They were able to faultlessly detect the gender of the baby from as early as five weeks by measuring the ratio of the amount of the enzymes DYS14 and GAPDH in the blood plasma.
Dr Gerald Weissmann, Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal, said: 'Although more work must be done before such a test is widely available, this paper does show it is possible to predict the sex of a child as early as the first few weeks after conception.
'At present, parents are sometimes given the wrong information about the sex of their unborn child; this test should prove helpful in resolving any uncertainties of today's ultrasound observations.'