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Mass. Newborn Screening Program Turns 50
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Published on Sep 24, 2012
http://www.umassmed.edu/nbs For fifty years, the New England Newborn Screening Program has been helping to provide peace of mind to parents and doctors by providing answers about the health of newborns in their first days of life. Operated by the University of Massachusetts Medical School's Commonwealth Medicine division, the tests performed by the Newborn Screening Program can help prevent serious unforeseen medical and developmental disabilities. In some cases, the tests save lives.
In Boston, a team from UMass Medical School is touching the life of every child born in Massachusetts
2012 marks the 50th anniversary of the Newborn Screening program, designed to detect serious health conditions in children using just a few drops of blood from a newborn's heel in the hours after birth. The samples come from hospitals throughout the state; anywhere from several hundred to two thousand samples a day.
When she was a child, Eileen Fitzgerald used to drive by this lab as it was being built. Today, she works here, and on this day she'll process hundreds of screenings -- perhaps on the children whose parents she screened more than 25 years ago.
The screening is complex. Roger Eaton, the Director of the Newborn Screening Program, explains the process.
(VOT: Roger Eaton) Specimens arrive on dry filter paper forms and then the analyst uses this automated punching machine to distribute small punches from those cards to different micro-titer plates. The various micro-titer plates are then brought to each of the laboratory areas here for the actual testing. The specimens, the tests that she is punching for right now are for tandem mass spectrometer, galactosemia, and the first tier of cystic fibrosis testing.
The samples are then are run through about 30 tests that are mandated by the Department of Public Health for every child born in the Commonwealth. There are more tests that parents can voluntarily opt to screen their children for.
These tests screen for conditions which a child rarely shows signs of in the first hours of life, but if left undetected can cause serious physical and developmental disabilities.
Finding those disorders, and preventing the harm they can cause, is the single focus of the Newborn Screening program.
A program that for 50 years has served our youngest residents, and provided knowledge and peace of mind for their families and doctors.
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