J Genet Med.  2011 Jun;8(1):1-16. 10.5734/JGM.2011.8.1.1.

Noninvasive Prenatal Diagnosis using Cell-Free Fetal DNA in Maternal Plasma: Clinical Applications

  • 1Division of Prenatal Molecular Genetics, Department of Laboratory Medicine, Seoul Medical Science Institute, Seoul Clinical Laboratories, Seoul, Korea. yhyang102@scllab.co.kr


Owing to the risk of fetal loss associated with prenatal diagnostic procedures (amniocentesis, chorionic villus sampling), noninvasive prenatal diagnosis (NIPD) is ultimate goal of prenatal diagnosis. The discovery of circulating cell-free fetal DNA (cffDNA) in maternal plasma in 1997 has opened up new probabilities for NIPD by Dr. Lo et al. The last decade has seen great development in NIPD. Fetal sex and fetal RhD status determination by cffDNA analysis is already in clinical use in certain countries. For routine use, this test is limited by the amount of cell-free maternal DNA in blood sample, the lack of universal fetal markers, and appropriate reference materials. To improve the accuracy of detection of fetal specific sequences in maternal plasma, internal positive controls to confirm to presence of fetal DNA should be analyzed. We have developed strategies for noninvasive determination of fetal gender, and fetal RhD genotyping using cffDNA in maternal plasma, using real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) including RASSF1A epigenetic fetal DNA marker (gender-independent) as internal positive controls, which is to be first successful study of this kind in Korea. In our study, accurate detection of fetal gender through gestational age, and fetal RhD genotyping in RhD-negative pregnant women was achieved. In this assay, we show that the assay is sensitive, easy, fast, and reliable. These developments improve the reliability of the applications of circulating fetal DNA when used in clinical practice to manage sex-linked disorders (e.g., hemophilia, Duchenne muscular dystrophy), congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH), RhD incompatibility, and the other noninvasive pregnant diagnostic tests on the coming soon. The study was the first successful case in Korea using cffDNA in maternal plasma, which has created a new avenue for clinical applications of NIPD.


Noninvasive prenatal diagnosis; Cell-free fetal DNA; Hypermethylated RASSF1A gene; Maternal plasma; Fetal gender; Fetal RhD status; Single gene disorders
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