Department of Bioengineering and Department of Radiology
Danny Schust, MD
Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Women’s Health
Raghuraman Kannan, PhD (left)
Danny Schust, MD (right)
ENSUR: A novel diagnostic prenatal genetic test
In the United States, approximately 75 percent of pregnant women undergo some type of prenatal genetic screening to assess fetal health. Ultrasound may provide the suggestion of fetal genetic abnormalities, but it does not provide the definitive results gained using methods that directly analyze DNA extracted from fetal cells. Tests that analyze fetal DNA circulating in the mother’s blood now are widely available; however, these tests provide less genetic information than can be obtained from intact fetal cells collected from amniotic fluid or from the placenta via chorionic villus sampling(CVS). Although amniocentesis and CVS are the gold standards for assessing fetal genetic abnormalities, they are invasive procedures that may cause fetal deformities or increase a woman’s risk of miscarriage. A non-invasive method for collection of intact fetal cells that allows extraction of whole fetal genomic DNA urgently is needed. The principal investigators have developed a proprietary method (ENSUR)for selective isolation of fetal cells collected from a vaginal swab. The investigators have demonstrated that ENSUR can separate fetal trophoblasts from vaginal epithetical cells and mucous. They have also demonstrated that the fetal cells collected in this non-invasive manner contain the complete genetic profile of the fetus. The next steps are to optimize the cell separation process and perform genetic analyses to confirm the ability of ENSUR to separate fetal cells from vaginal swabs collected from pregnant women.