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Hemoglobinopathies


Overview :

The hemoglobin molecule is composed of four separate polypeptide chains of amino acids, two alpha chains and two beta chains, as well as four iron-bearing heme groups that bind oxygen. The alpha chains are coded for by two similar genes on chromosome 16; the beta chains by a single gene on chromosome 11. Mutations and deletions in these genes cause one of the many hemoglobinopathies.

In general, hemoglobinopathies are divided into those in which the gene abnormality results in a qualitative change in the hemoglobin molecule and those in which the change is quantitative. Sickle cell anemia (sickle cell disease) is the prime example of the former, and the group of disorders known as the thalassemias constitute the latter. It has been estimated that one third of a million people worldwide are seriously affected by one of these genetic disorders.




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