Handling small supernumerary marker chromosomes in prenatal diagnostics

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Small supernumerary marker chromosomes (sSMCs) are structurally abnormal chromosomes that cannot be thoroughly characterized by conventional banding cytogenetics and are equal in size or smaller than chromosome 20. They are present in 0.075% of prenatal cases and, overall, approximately 3 million people worldwide are carriers of a sSMC. In prenatal cases with ultrasound abnormalities, sSMCs are found in up to approximately 0.2% of the cases. First described in 1961, it is now known that sSMCs have no phenotypic effects in approximately 70% of de novo cases. Nonetheless, in at least 30–50% of prenatally detected sSMC cases, the pregnancy is terminated; that is, for a certain percentage of potentially healthy children with a sSMC, an abortion is induced. This situation can only be improved by providing increased amounts of and more reliable information on sSMCs. This article provides an overview on current state-of-the-art technologies and how sSMC analysis can be optimized in prenatal diagnostics.

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