Big Developments in Paternity Testing

Creative Commons License photo credit: San Sharma

Traditionally, paternity testing has been an invasive procedure. Because the testing requires the doctor to acquire a sample of fetal cells, it also carries with it a risk (albeit a small one) of causing a miscarriage. A paternity test during pregnancy is, more often than not, a major ordeal. However, if the latest research proves to be any indication, a pregnant woman may be able to have her baby’s DNA tested and compared to a potential father with a simple blood test.

The new test, being promoted by an Ohio company, has a price of $1,625. This isn’t an upstart, fly-by-night company, either; this is the largest provider of paternity tests in the entire country. The company says that the experiments and their results are undergoing peer review, and may soon be certified for use.

The company that actually developed the test is Gene Security Network, based in California. The test looks at what are known as “SNPs” – single nucleotide polymorphisms. These are single-letter variances in a person’s genetic codes. The test records more than 300,000 of these in the genome.  The test creates an SNP profile for the woman, and then look at the DNA in the woman’s blood plasma which contains about 10 percent broken-down fetal cells. This allows the test to compare those fetal cells to a potential father.

The test is most reliable when it’s run for a woman who is more than 12 weeks pregnant. In the clinical studies, testing of over 1,000 men demonstrated no false positive results. Testing on around 100 men who were indeed fathers didn’t produce any false negative results, either. This suggests that the test will be very reliable. In some cases – less than 1 percent, it wasn’t possible to give an answer at all.

The key to the accuracy of this test is the large amount of SNPs that the test analyzes. Genetic experts seem to agree that this approach should work, and that it’s probably one of the most accurate and reasonable ways to get results. Best of all, it doesn’t create a risk situation where the baby’s viability is in danger due to a test.

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