Cell-Free Fetal DNA Testing for Prenatal Diagnosis

Adv Clin Chem. 2016;76:1-35. doi: 10.1016/bs.acc.2016.05.004. Epub 2016 Jun 28.


Prenatal diagnosis and screening have undergone rapid development in recent years, with advances in molecular technology driving the change. Noninvasive prenatal testing (NIPT) for Down syndrome as a highly sensitive screening test is now available worldwide through the commercial sector with many countries moving toward implementation into their publically funded maternity systems. Noninvasive prenatal diagnosis (NIPD) can now be performed for definitive diagnosis of some recessive and X-linked conditions, rather than just paternally inherited dominant and de novo conditions. NIPD/T offers pregnant couples greater choice during their pregnancy as these safer methods avoid the risk of miscarriage associated with invasive testing. As the cost of sequencing falls and technology develops further, there may well be potential for whole exome and whole genome sequencing of the unborn fetus using cell-free DNA in the maternal plasma. How such assays can or should be implemented into the clinical setting remain an area of significant debate, but it is clear that the progress made to date for safer prenatal testing has been welcomed by expectant couples and their healthcare professionals.

Keywords: Aneuploidy; Cell-free DNA; NIPD; NIPT; Noninvasive prenatal diagnosis; Noninvasive prenatal testing; Single gene disorders; cffDNA.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cell-Free System*
  • DNA / genetics*
  • Female
  • Fetus
  • Genetic Markers
  • Genetic Testing
  • Humans
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Diagnosis / methods*


  • Genetic Markers
  • DNA