Noninvasive Prenatal Diagnosis: Using Fetal Cells From Maternal Blood

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United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)




Chromosome Disorders

Study type


Funder types




Details and patient eligibility


This purpose of this study is to develop noninvasive methods of prenatal diagnosis. Fetal cells can be found in maternal blood. This study is designed to isolate these fetal cells from a sample of the pregnant woman's blood and use those cells to test for fetal chromosome abnormalities.

Full description

Fetal cells can be recovered from maternal blood, suggesting that noninvasive prenatal diagnosis is possible. However, recovery and analysis of fetal cells from maternal blood is complex and sensitivity is low because of the rarity of these cells in the maternal circulation. This study was designed to develop a noninvasive, safe, relatively inexpensive, and accurate technique for the prenatal diagnosis of genetic disorders in the first trimester. The study included a systematic evaluation of variables involved in separating and enriching fetal cells isolated from maternal blood through fluorescence activated cell sorting (FACS) and magnetic activated cell sorting (MACS) followed by fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH) with chromosome-specific DNA probes. The results of these tests were compared to those obtained from amniocentesis or chorionic villus sampling (CVS) on the same women. No clinical decision was made based on the results of the experimental diagnostic/screening technique. Even if the biological risks associated with reproductive genetic technologies are reduced, it is possible that other risks (or benefits) are associated with the procedures. Some of these factors may be: increased or diminished maternal anxiety, increased adjustment or maladaption to the pregnancy, increased feelings of coercion to undertake the procedure, and increased or decreased comfort with reproductive decision-making. The study also assessed whether there were any nonbiological or psychological effects on the women undergoing prenatal diagnostic testing. After the first five years of the study, preliminary analysis of the data showed that the sensitivity of aneuploidy detection using fetal cell analysis from maternal blood is comparable to single marker prenatal serum screening, but technological advances are needed before fetal cell analysis has clinical application as part of a multiple maker method for noninvasive prenatal screening. Target cell recovery and fetal cell detection were better using MACS than with FACS. The detection rate of finding at least one aneuploid cell in cases of fetal aneuploidy was 74.4%.




16 to 45 years old


No Healthy Volunteers

Inclusion and exclusion criteria

Inclusion Criteria

  • Pregnant
  • Abnormal serum marker profile (alpha-fetoprotein, hCG, estriol)
  • Ultrasound abnormalities of the fetus
  • Any high risk indicator for aneuploidy as determined by physician

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