Scientists have created a method that can yield more information from archived newborn blood that has implications for a vast array of research, including population health studies and answering questions about diseases in infants and children.
Van Andel Research Institute (VARI) researchers detected approximately 9,000 activated genes in samples from adult blood spots on Guthrie cards that had been archived anywhere from six months to three years. Researchers say their modified method uses commercially available tools and can be easily adopted by others in the scientific community for use on newborn blood spots.
"Genetic information from Guthrie cards is a valuable resource," said VARI Distinguished Scientific Investigator Jim Resau.
"It opens doors to examine risk factors and potentially diagnose diseases before the clinical features are present. One such disease might be Cerebral Palsy, which currently can't be diagnosed until a child is nearly two. The information could also be used to study pediatric cancers such as neuroblastoma, which is known to be present at birth in many cases."
Guthrie cards have been used for the past 20-30 years to collect blood for mandatory newborn screening programs in the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and most countries in Europe and South America.
Blood is usually collected through a heel prick 24 to 48 hours after birth and is placed on the cards, which may be archived after screening. Although genetic material in blood from Guthrie cards has been presumed to be degraded because of varying storage conditions, VARI researchers were able to detect more than 3,000 activated genes in each sample in a 2009 study, and recently, they were able to detect three times that amount using the new method.
The study has been published in Pathology International.