The presence of fetal DNA in maternal plasma can be exploited to develop new procedures for non-invasive prenatal diagnosis. Tests to detect 7 frequent beta-globin gene mutations in people of Mediterranean origin were applied to the analysis of maternal plasma in couples where parents carried different mutations. A mutant enrichment amplification protocol was optimized by using peptide nucleic acids (PNAs) to clamp maternal wild-type alleles. By this approach, 41 prenatal diagnoses were performed by microelectronic microchip analysis, with total concordance of results obtained on fetal DNA extracted from chorionic villi. Among these, 27/28 were also confirmed by direct sequencing and 4 by pyrosequencing.
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