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NIH set to enhance diagnostic testing in newborns

Category: Blood and Blood Diseases

The National Institutes of Health this week launched a research program that seeks to enhance diagnostic testing for serious disorders among newborns.

Under the Newborn Screening Saves Lives Act, the U.S. Congress established the Hunter Kelly Newborn Screening Research Program in the NIH's Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). The program is named after the son of Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly, who died at 8-years-old of a rare, fatal genetic disorder called Krabbe disease.

The program will seek to improve newborn screening so that more health conditions can be diagnosed at birth - usually through a blood test analysis - making the disorders easier to treat.

"Hunter's family has increased awareness of the need for research to expand newborn screening, and worked tirelessly to ensure that routine newborn screening and treatment can be expanded to cover a far greater number of disorders than is possible today," said Dr Susan Shurin, director of the NICHD.

According to the National Institutes of Health, in 2007, more than 4.2 million U.S. infants underwent clinical testing and 7,189 were diagnosed with biochemical abnormalities or defects in the blood protein hemoglobin.

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