Now, a simple blood test to check Downs syndrome

London: Scientists have developed a simple blood test to check unborn children for Down`s syndrome, which they claim could save pregnant women from undergoing invasive tests that risk losing their baby.

The blood test has been developed by the scientists in Cyprus after they identified the key DNA difference that flags up Downs syndrome, a chromosomal condition caused by presence of all or part of an extra 21st chromosome.

Infants with Down`s syndrome, which is characterised by severe physical and mental impairments, have an extra copy of Chromosome 21. As DNA can cross the placenta from the baby to the mother, the blood test looks for chemical differences and extra chromosomes – a telltale defect in unborn babies.

The scientists now believe the simple technique should be rolled out as a screening test in future, British newspaper the `Daily Express` reported.

Dr Philippos Patsalis of the Cyprus Institute of Neurology and Genetics said: "The method is simple and fast and easy to perform in every genetic diagnostic lab worldwide because it does not require expensive equipment, software or special infrastructure.

"Such a non-invasive approach will avoid the risk of miscarriages of normal pregnancies caused by current, more invasive procedures."

The findings have been published `Nature Medicine` journal.