CAMBRIDGE, England (WNS) – New research suggests women who terminate their pregnancies because of an abnormal prenatal test may be aborting perfectly healthy babies.
Doctors frequently offer birth defect tests to pregnant women whose babies are at increased risk of abnormalities. One of the tests that can be performed earliest in pregnancy, chorionic villus sampling (CVS) analyzes cells from the placenta between 11 and 14 weeks of gestation.
Physicians often believe the presence of abnormal cells indicates the baby will most likely be born with birth defects like Down syndrome. Some moms choose to abort their babies when the test results are abnormal.
Researchers at the University of Cambridge, who published their results in the journal Nature Communications, found even when half the cells of an early-stage mouse embryo were abnormal, the embryo was still able to fully repair itself because the abnormal cells self-destructed and healthy cells replaced them. In many cases, the process completely repaired a defective embryo, leaving it with all healthy cells even though some of the placental cells were still abnormal. Even in cases where 75 percent of an early-stage embryo’s cells were abnormal, the ratio of normal cells increased as the embryo developed.
“The embryo has an amazing ability to correct itself,” the senior author of the study, Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz, said in a statement.
Despite limited information about the meaning of test results, some experts lead women to believe the presence of abnormal cells means their baby will be born with birth defects.
More research is needed to determine if the results of the study hold true.