Abnormalities in unborn children may ‘fix themselves’

Unborn children who have abnormalities in the early weeks of pregnancy may go on to develop into healthy babies, a University of Cambridge study has found.

A professor from the university began the research after a medical test on her own baby boy showed that as many as a quarter of the cells in the placenta were abnormal. He, however, was born healthy.

“The embryo has an amazing ability to correct itself”, Prof Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz said.

‘Killed off’

The research team used mice for the work and mixed together embryos that had normal cells with those that had abnormal cells.

In embryos where the mix was half and half, abnormal cells within the embryo were “killed off”, the university said, allowing “the normal cells to take over, resulting in an embryo where all the cells were healthy”.


Prof Zernicka-Goetz said: “We found that even when half of the cells in the early stage embryo are abnormal, the embryo can fully repair itself.”

She added that if this is the case in people, then “even when early indications suggest a child might have a birth defect” because of the presence of some abnormal cells, the child could be born healthy.

The chorionic villius sampling (CVS) test, which Prof Zernicka-Goetz had, is offered to some women at around 11-14 weeks into pregnancy.

Down Syndrome

Amniocentesis – another pregnancy test taken later in pregnancy – is used to check for Down Syndrome.

Recent figures show that on average, 92 per cent of babies diagnosed before birth with Down Syndrome in England and Wales are aborted each year.

The Christian Institute’s Choose Life series in 2014 shared the story of Melanie and Damien Sheenan, who were incorrectly told that that their baby was “incompatible with life”.


The couple faced pressure to have an abortion, but they refused and later it was shown that the doctors had made an incorrect diagnosis.

Melanie said of their son: “If we had gone with the doctors’ diagnosis he wouldn’t be here today and I’d be living with the fact that I’d had an abortion and all the effects that might have had on me.”

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