Vistara is a new technology that Maternal Fetal Medicine Associates use as part of a prenatal screening process to give parents the most comprehensive information about the risks of their baby having certain genetic disorders. This is a helpful complement to our other screenings and diagnostic tools we use on a routine basis to help parents plan their pregnancy care needs and prepare them for life after childbirth.
At MFM, we use a variety of tests to identify chromosomal and genetic abnormalities than an unborn baby may have. Most commonly, we perform amniocentesis and chorionic villus sampling (CVS) to see if the baby has the correct number of chromosomes and doesn’t have missing genetic code that could cause a genetic disorder.
Another less invasive technique of screening for genetic disorders is using noninvasive prenatal screening (NIPS). This is performed with a simple blood draw from the pregnant patient, which is then analyzed for chromosome alterations.
Vistara expands our knowledge of the risks of genetic disorders by allowing us to screen for single-gene disorders. Single-gene disorders are genetic conditions that arise from a small section of DNA. These are not detectable through standard CVS or amniocentesis procedures unless a doctor specifically requests a disorder be looked into.
This procedure works by analyzing cell-free DNA (cfDNA) found in the mother’s bloodstream. Cell-free DNA is free-floating DNA strands not bound up by human cells. Both the mother and baby have cfDNA in the mother’s bloodstream, and the baby’s DNA can be isolated for testing. Vistara by Natera screens for more than 20 different genetic conditions, including achondroplasia, Noonan syndrome, and osteogenesis imperfecta. Taken all together, these conditions occur once in every 600 births.
Vistara can be used for many reasons, primarily when:
- Ultrasound imaging reveals anomalies that can be confirmed through Vistara
- Patients want the most comprehensive information about their baby’s health
- CVS or amniocentesis reveal a risk factor that Vistara can help confirm
We use Vistara to screen for single-gene disorders because some of these disorders, while not potentially life-threatening, will change the course of pregnancy care. Single-gene disorders can also affect how the baby is delivered, what types of tests or monitoring they’ll need after being born, and how the parents will raise their child.
Although medical history and family history of genetic disorders is often helpful in diagnosing the risk of developing one in your baby, this has its limits. Some single-gene disorders arise out of nowhere, as “de novo” genetic variants. The only way to know about these mutations is through genetic screening.
It’s worth pointing out that not everyone chooses to screen for single-gene or any genetic disorders if they don’t want to. These are simply tools for those who want the most information, not that we force everyone to learn about the risks of genetic disorders. There’s no wrong answer for whether to screen for these conditions, and our maternal fetal medicine specialists will help guide you in the decision-making process based on your personal beliefs and desires.
Whether you want to wait until birth or have as much information as you can before that time, our maternal fetal medicine specialists are here to help you through pregnancy with screenings and tests to ensure you have a healthy and safe delivery. Learn more about your options for prenatal screenings and Vistara genetic screening by scheduling a consultation with us today.