Newborn screening for Krabbe disease in New York State: the first eight years' experience.



Krabbe disease (KD) results from galactocerebrosidase (GALC) deficiency. Infantile KD symptoms include irritability, progressive stiffness, developmental delay, and death. The only potential treatment is hematopoietic stem cell transplantation. New York State (NYS) implemented newborn screening for KD in 2006.


Dried blood spots from newborns were assayed for GALC enzyme activity using mass spectrometry, followed by molecular analysis for those with low activity (≤12% of the daily mean). Infants with low enzyme activity and one or more mutations were referred for follow-up diagnostic testing and neurological examination.


Of >1.9 million screened, 620 infants were subjected to molecular analysis and 348 were referred for diagnostic testing. Five had enzyme activities and mutations consistent with infantile KD and manifested clinical/neurodiagnostic abnormalities. Four underwent transplantation, two are surviving with moderate to severe handicaps, and two died from transplant-related complications. The significance of many sequence variants identified is unknown. Forty-six asymptomatic infants were found to be at moderate to high risk for disease.


The positive predictive value of KD screening in NYS is 1.4% (5/346) considering confirmed infantile cases. The incidence of infantile KD in NYS is approximately 1 in 394,000, but it may be higher for later-onset forms.





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Publication Info

Orsini, Joseph J, Denise M Kay, Carlos A Saavedra-Matiz, David A Wenger, Patricia K Duffner, Richard W Erbe, Chad Biski, Monica Martin, et al. (2016). Newborn screening for Krabbe disease in New York State: the first eight years' experience. Genetics in medicine : official journal of the American College of Medical Genetics, 18(3). pp. 239–248. 10.1038/gim.2015.211 Retrieved from

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Joanne Kurtzberg

Jerome S. Harris Distinguished Professor of Pediatrics

Dr. Kurtzberg is an internationally renowned expert in pediatric hematology/oncology, pediatric blood and marrow transplantation, umbilical cord blood banking and transplantation, and novel applications of cord blood and birthing tissues in the emerging fields of cellular therapies and regenerative medicine.   Dr. Kurtzberg serves as the Director of the Marcus Center for Cellular Cures (MC3), Director of the Pediatric Transplant and Cellular Therapy Program, Director of the Carolinas Cord Blood Bank, and Co-Director of the Stem Cell Transplant Laboratory at Duke University.  The Carolinas Cord Blood Bank is an FDA licensed public cord blood bank distributing unrelated cord blood units for donors for hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) through the CW Bill Young Cell Transplantation Program.  The Robertson GMP Cell Manufacturing Laboratory supports manufacturing of RETHYMIC (BLA, Enzyvant, 2021), allogeneic cord tissue derived and bone marrow derived mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs), and DUOC, a microglial/macrophage cell derived from cord blood.

Dr. Kurtzberg’s research in MC3 focuses on translational studies from bench to bedside, seeking to develop transformative clinical therapies using cells, tissues, molecules, genes, and biomaterials to treat diseases and injuries that currently lack effective treatments. Recent areas of investigation in MC3 include clinical trials investigating the safety and efficacy of autologous and allogeneic cord blood in children with neonatal brain injury – hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), cerebral palsy (CP), and autism. Clinical trials testing allogeneic cord blood are also being conducted in adults with acute ischemic stroke. Clinical trials optimizing manufacturing and testing the safety and efficacy of cord tissue MSCs in children with autism, CP and HIE and adults with COVID-lung disease are underway. DUOC, given intrathecally, is under study in children with leukodystrophies and adults with primary progressive multiple sclerosis.

In the past, Dr. Kurtzberg has developed novel chemotherapeutic drugs for acute leukemias, assays enumerating ALDH bright cells to predict cord blood unit potency, methods of cord blood expansion, potency assays for targeted cell and tissue based therapies. Dr. Kurtzberg currently holds several INDs for investigational clinical trials from the FDA.  She has also trained numerous medical students, residents, clinical and post-doctoral fellows over the course of her career.

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