State of the art and new developments in molecular diagnostics for hemoglobinopathies in multiethnic societies

Int J Lab Hematol. 2014 Feb;36(1):1-12. doi: 10.1111/ijlh.12108. Epub 2013 May 31.


For detecting carriers of thalassemia traits, the basic part of diagnostics consists of measurement of the hematological indices followed by mostly automatic separation and measurement of the Hb fractions, while direct Hb separation either on high pressure liquid chromatography or capillary electrophoresis is sufficient to putatively identify carriers of the common Hb variants like HbS, C, E, D, and O-Arab. A putative positive result is reported together with an advice for parents, partner, or family analysis. For couples, presumed at-risk confirmation at the DNA level is essential. In general, this part of diagnostics is done in specialized centers provided with sufficient experience and the technical tools needed to combine hematological and biochemical interpretation with identification of the mutations at the molecular level. State-of-the-art tools are usually available in centers that also provide prenatal diagnosis and should consist of gap-PCR for the common deletions, direct DNA sequencing for all kind of point-mutations and the capacity to uncover novel or rare mutations or disease mechanisms. New developments are MLPA for large and eventually unknown deletion defects and microarray technology for fine mapping and primer design for breakpoint analysis. Gap-PCR primers designed in the region flanking the deletion breakpoints can subsequently be used to facilitate carrier detection of uncommon deletions in family members or isolated populations in laboratories where no microarray technology or MLPA is available.

Keywords: MLPA; Thalassemia; hemoglobinopathy; microarray technology; molecular diagnostics; sickle cell disease.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anemia, Sickle Cell / diagnosis*
  • Anemia, Sickle Cell / genetics
  • Anemia, Sickle Cell / pathology
  • DNA Primers
  • Female
  • Genetic Counseling
  • Hemoglobins, Abnormal / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Multiplex Polymerase Chain Reaction / instrumentation
  • Multiplex Polymerase Chain Reaction / methods
  • Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis / instrumentation
  • Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis / methods
  • Pathology, Molecular / instrumentation
  • Pathology, Molecular / methods
  • Pathology, Molecular / trends*
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Diagnosis
  • alpha-Globins / genetics
  • alpha-Thalassemia / diagnosis*
  • alpha-Thalassemia / genetics
  • alpha-Thalassemia / pathology
  • beta-Globins / genetics
  • beta-Thalassemia / diagnosis*
  • beta-Thalassemia / genetics
  • beta-Thalassemia / pathology


  • DNA Primers
  • Hemoglobins, Abnormal
  • alpha-Globins
  • beta-Globins