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Who's the Dad? First-Trimester Blood Test May Tell
Date:5/3/2012

By Maureen Salamon
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, May 2 (HealthDay News) -- Finding out who the father is in paternity cases may become easier with the emergence of a simple blood test for women that can be given in the first trimester of pregnancy.

The paternity screening, developed at a private biotech company in Maryland, is intended to replace more invasive, risky tests that are done later in the pregnancy, its developer says.

"It's not knowing who the father is that makes a pregnancy challenging and stressful for the mother," said Dr. Ravinder Dhallan, chairman, CEO and founder of Ravgen Inc., the Columbia, Md.-based company that developed the test. "Knowing who the father is allows them to make informed decisions about their pregnancies. We've found it can be done very simply and eventually, inexpensively."

Scientists at Ravgen use a chemical "fixative," such as formaldehyde, to stabilize fetal DNA in the mother's blood and produce larger analyzable amounts. Of blood samples collected from 30 pregnant women, the researchers said they correctly determined paternity for all of them.

Dhallan is co-author of a letter about the procedure published in the May 3 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

About 5 percent of women who are raped become pregnant, producing an estimated 32,000 unintended pregnancies each year in the United States, according to Dhallan. Currently available prenatal paternity tests include amniocentesis and chorionic villus sampling -- which extract fetal cells from a pregnant woman's amniotic fluid or placenta and pose a small risk of producing a miscarriage.

The 30 blood tests were carried out between October 2007 and January 2010, and results were confirmed after babies were delivered by swabbing the inside of their cheeks to analyze their DNA. The mothers' average age was 30, and the average length of the pregnancy was 10 weeks when blood tests were done.
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