A New Technology That Is Being Developed to Help Astronauts Get To Mars May Launch Safer Tests For Expectant Mothers

Lisa and Robert Anderson's daughter, Vivian, is lots of fun. To her parents' huge relief, she's healthy. According to Lisa, her pregnancy was very difficult.

"I had a lot of problems. It was stressful from the beginning."

In the American Journal of Hematology, UCLA Pediatric Researcher Edward McCabe reported that genetic testing could be safer, simpler, and more accessible. For two years, he's been working with engineers on a NASA project to make a lab on a chip.

"We're able to put our ideas together and do some really cool stuff."

NASA wants the chip for monitoring astronauts' health in space, but McCabe says his team's approach could be used to diagnose prenatal problems quickly and safely from a simple blood test.

"Fetal cells circulate in the maternal blood. We could sort the and mother's blood on the chip, identify the fetal cells, then test them for down syndrome, for other chromosomal the fetus abnormalities, and we would know whether or not was at risk."

McCabe says they've made a chip with tiny cells to test individual cells.

"What we're learning to do is to take a single cell and move it into that well, and those wells will be monitored chemically and that will allow us then to know whether that individual cell has had damage."

McCabe hopes that the device, which could be available within five years, will take some of the anxiety out of waiting for a baby.