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Thursday, 30th August 2012
In General Japan News,

Japanese hospitals to trial new test for Down's syndrome

Five medical centres across Japan are due to trial a new method of testing for Down's syndrome in pregnant women.

The trial will be carried out on 1,000 expectant women over the age of 35 as they are more inclined to conceive babies with the genetic condition.

The National Center for Child Health and Development (NCCHD), situated in Tokyo, is among the institutions taking part in the testing, with the method already having undergone trials in the US last year.

It provides an alternative to typical amniotic fluid checks for Down's syndrome, which carry a risk of miscarriage among around 0.5 per cent of participants.

This new strategy examines the pregnant woman's blood for chromosome abnormalities and has at least a 99 per cent accuracy rate.

If approved, it could prevent many women from having to undergo the amniotic fluid checks, which require the insertion of a needle into the woman's abdomen.

Chief of the perinatal centre of the NCCHD Haruhiko Sago said: "Though this latest technology can change the concept of prenatal diagnosis, if it is conducted too lightly, it may cause ethical problems."

One issue critics are worried about is that the testing will result in more women opting for abortions.

"We'll implement the method carefully in conjunction with a proper counselling system," Mr Sago was quoted by the Daily Yomiuri as saying. 

Other centres included in the trials are Showa University, the University of Tokyo and Yokohama City University.

Health insurance will not cover the schemes, with testing expected to cost around 200,000 yen (£1,606).

Down's syndrome comes in three different forms, which are regular trisomy 21, translocation and mosaic.

Boys are typically more prone to the condition, which affects one in 1,000 babies born in the UK each year.

This blood testing method for the condition can be implemented at the tenth week of pregnancy - five weeks before the amniotic fluid checks can be made.

Posted by Susan Ballion