CellPro Inc. (NASDAQ:CPRO) announced Monday that companyscientists have used the its Ceprate avidin-biotin basedimmunoaffinity system to isolate and concentrate fetal cellsfrom maternal circulation.

Researchers Jeff Hall and Sheryl Williams reported at thismonth's meeting of the American Society of Human Geneticsthat they were able to achieve a 100-to-3,250-foldconcentration of fetal cells expressing the stem-cell markerCD34+, meaning a ratio of one fetal cell per 1,030 maternalcells. This compares with the much lower ratio in the maternalcirculation -- roughly one in 1 million -- as detected by Halland Williams via a Y-chromosome specific polymerase chainreaction (PCR). And for genetic analyses on fetal cells, "the trickis to get the cells in the first place," explained Lee Parker,CellPro's director of investor relations. The idea behindCellPro's approach is to isolate and concentrate these cells, andeventually to expand them in culture.

Hall explained that the goal of the research is to replaceamniocentesis and chorionic villus sampling procedures, andtheir risks to the fetus with a non-invasive -- and inexpensive-- method of obtaining fetal blood cells for analysis for Down'ssyndrome and other genetically linked conditions. The onlyway such genetic analyses will be practical, Parker added, is ifthey are simple, easy-to-use and relatively inexpensive.

The Seattle company announced Nov. 19 that it had received anallowance on its patent on an improved particle separationapparatus, particularly the automated instrument portion ofCeprate, and a method for separating target particles from asample fluid.

The company's stock (NASDAQ:CPRO) closed at $22 Monday, up$1.38 a share.

-- Jennifer Van Brunt Senior Editor

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