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Prenatal diagnosis of hemoglobinopathies: evaluation of techniques for analysing globin-chain synthesis in blood samples obtained by fetoscopy.

  • L. F. Congote
  • E. F. Hamilton
  • J. C. Chow
  • T. B. Perry
Publication Date
Nov 01, 1982
  • Medicine


Three techniques for analysing hemoglobin synthesis in blood samples obtained by fetoscopy were evaluated. Of the fetuses studied, 12 were not at risk of genetic disorders, 10 were at risk of beta-thalassemia, 2 were at risk of sickle cell anemia and 1 was at risk of both diseases. The conventional method of prenatal diagnosis of hemoglobinopathies, involving the separation of globin chains labelled with a radioactive isotope on carboxymethyl cellulose (CMC) columns, was compared with a method involving globin-chain separation by high-pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC) and with direct analysis of labelled hemoglobin tetramers obtained from cell lysates by chromatography on ion-exchange columns. The last method is technically the simplest and can be used for diagnosing beta-thalassemia and sickle cell anemia. However, it gives spuriously high levels of adult hemoglobin in samples containing nonlabelled adult hemoglobin. HPLC is the fastest method for prenatal diagnosis of beta-thalassemia and may prove as reliable as the CMC method. Of the 13 fetuses at risk for hemoglobinopathies, 1 was predicted to be affected, and the diagnosis was confirmed in the abortus. Of 12 predicted to be unaffected, 1 was aborted spontaneously and was unavailable for confirmatory studies, as were 3 of the infants; however, the diagnosis was confirmed in seven cases and is awaiting confirmation when the infant in 6 months old in one case. Couples at risk of bearing a child with a hemoglobinopathy should be referred for genetic counselling before pregnancy or, at the latest, by the 12th week of gestation so that prenatal diagnosis can be attempted by amniocentesis, safer procedure, with restriction endonuclease analysis of the amniotic fluid cells.

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