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Hemoglobin. 1988;12(5-6):551-64.

Overview of the beta thalassemias: genetic and clinical aspects.

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  • 1Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Department of Pediatrics, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine 19104.


There has been much progress in basic studies of the beta-thalassemia disorders in recent years, as well as in the practical aspects of prenatal diagnosis and clinical management. Alterations in a single or a few nucleotides account for most of the types of beta-thalassemia syndromes that have been characterized, and a variety of deletions have been found associated with beta O thalassemia, delta beta thalassemia, gamma delta beta thalassemia, and hereditary persistence of fetal hemoglobin (HPFH). Studies of nondeletional types of HPFH have revealed several single base changes 5' to the G gamma and A gamma genes, suggesting that these regions may be of major importance in the switchover from fetal to adult hemoglobin synthesis and in the relative production of the G gamma and A gamma globin chains during development. Evaluation of restriction enzyme polymorphisms and the assignment of haplotypes in the beta-like globin region of chromosome 11 have allowed delineation of the origin and distribution of thalassemia mutations, and have provided an important means for prenatal diagnosis. These studies have accumulated much new information about the function and expression of eukaryotic genes, and have served as a model for the investigation of human genetic disorders. The clinical management of patients with Cooley's anemia has benefited greatly from changes in transfusion practice, clear guidelines for splenectomy, and the availability of effective chelation therapy for iron overload. Current basic and clinical studies may lead to new approaches to management, treatment and eventual cures for this disease, including safe bone marrow transplantation, oral chelation treatment, and gene therapy.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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