Come to Papa

By Baird, Michael | USA TODAY, November 2011 | Go to article overview

Come to Papa


Baird, Michael, USA TODAY


MOST OF US THINK of DNA and paternity testing as something we watch on "Who's Your Daddy?" tabloid TV, or witness during our favorite Sunday night crime drama. However, a new, innovative technology for a noninvasive prenatal paternity test has opened a fascinating frontier of DNA testing that moves the science into a new century.

DNA Diagnostics Center (DDC) announced the release of a noninvasive prenatal paternity test. The company has the exclusive license in the U.S., using testing known as SNP (single nucleotide polymorphism--pronounced "snip") microarray technology. The test is safe for mother and fetus, and replaces current invasive methods that can be dangerous to the pregnancy. It employs a bioinformatics program to analyze 317,000 genetic markers, and requires a simple blood draw from the mother and alleged father, with results--99.9% accurate in as little as five days.

Scientists now can--at 12 weeks--analyze all 46 chromosomes necessary to determine paternity. (There is a gender test that can determine the sex of a baby as early as seven weeks. However, it analyzes only one chromosome.)

According to Peter Vitulli, CEO of DDC, "Questions about paternity testing often arise at conception, and are a dilemma for the mother: Can I get a test now? Do I have to wait until the child is born before I determine who is the biological father? Such uncertainty can cause anxiety and maternal stress, which could affect the health of both the mother and child."

Interestingly, almost 50% of those who contact the company are potential fathers, who, along with the mother, find great comfort and closure at an early stage of pregnancy.

The test involves a three-step process: First, a call is made to DDC to speak with a paternity test specialist. Since each situation is unique, it is important to get the right test. If a noninvasive prenatal test is chosen, appointments are made for the blood draw at a collection facility. Next, a small amount of blood is required from the mother and potential father. The mother's blood is stabilized for shipping to the laboratory with a proprietary solution that preserves the fetal DNA for several days at room temperature. This is critical to ensure the integrity of the testing. Finally, the testing is performed and results are delivered. They are available within a week of the samples arriving at the laboratory, and indicate whether the alleged father is the biological father of the child.

Noninvasive prenatal paternity testing has been available for years but, the new test, created by Gene Security Network, represents a significant advancement in accuracy and reliability. "Our bioinformatics technology is used in a range of... clinical diagnostic tests involving tiny quantifies of DNA--as little as that from a single cell," explains CEO Matthew Rabinowitz.

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