Analysis of hereditary haemochromatosis and clinical correlations in the elderly

Bouwens, C. S. H. (2000-12)

Thesis (MSc)--Stellenbosch University, 2000.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Hereditary haemochromatosis (HH) is an autosomal recessive iron storage disease where the accumulation of iron in parenchymal organs may lead to diabetes, heart failure, liver cirrhosis, arthropathy, weakness and a variety of other ailments if preventive measures are not taken. HH is often not considered as a cause of these conditions, particularly not in the elderly where the background frequencies of type II diabetes, osteoarthritis and heart failure are generally high. Heterozygosity for C282Y, the HFE-mutation causing HH in approximately 80% of affected individuals worldwide, has been linked to a raised incidence of malignancies of the colon and rectum, stomach and the haematological system. One of the highest carrier-frequencies (116) in the world for this mutation has been reported in the South-African Afrikaner population, resulting in C282Y-homozygosity in approximately 1 in every 115 people in this group. A sample of 197 elderly Afrikaner volunteers was recruited for genotype/phenotype association studies. Their clinical presentation was denoted, biochemical iron-status determined and HFE genotyping performed. Either an increase or decrease in survival, or both, were proposed, depending on possible gender effects. HH has been positively associated with various cancer types, but may also protect against iron-deficiency anaemia which is by far the most frequent cause of anaemia in the older person. This study has led to the following findings: 1. The carrier frequency of mutation C282Y was found to be 1/8 in the elderly population (similar in males and females), which is slightly lower than the 1/6 reported in younger adults from the same population. Only one C282Y homozygote and two C282YIH63D compound heterozygotes were detected, all of them female. 2. The prevalence of diabetes, heart disease, arthropathy or a combination of these conditions did not differ significantly in C282Y heterozygotes and the mutationnegative group. 3. Among 24 C282Y heterozygotes only one individual with rectal carcmoma was detected compared with two cases with rectal- and seven with colonic malignancies in 153 mutation-negative individuals. The single female C282Y homozygote identified suffered from both rectal and colon carcinoma and died approximately 6 months ago as a consequence of her colon malignancy. 4. Serum ferritin appears to be a highly unreliable parameter of iron status, particularly in the elderly where a variety of factors that may influence the levels are often present in elderly individuals. This may be due to ageing alone or as a result of multiple comorbidities. 5. Serum ferritin levels were lower than expected in elderly subjects with mutation C282Y and compound heterozygotes with both C282Y and H63D, which may be related to a variable penetrance of the HFE gene mutations. It is possible that variation in other genes exist that confer protection against iron-loading by gene-gene interaction. The probability that environmental factors (e.g. a low iron diet) are more important in this respect cannot be excluded, although this is considered less likely in the light of the fact that the same trend was observed in all mutation-positive elderly individuals. It is therefore highly likely that C282Y -positive subjects with significant iron loading have died before reaching their seventies, particularly since none of the males included in this study were homozygous or compound heterozygous for the mutations analysed. In conclusion, possession of a mutant HFE gene does not appear to confer a survival advantage in old age, neither does it seem that mutation carriers with significant ironloading are overlooked by the medical fraternity. Further investigations are warranted to shed more light on the contributions of gene-gene and gene-environment interaction in the clinical manifestation of Hll, and how these processes can be manipulated to prevent the symptoms of this largely underdiagnosed disease.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Oorerflike hemochromatose (OH) is 'n outosomaal resessiewe yster-oorladingssiekte waar akkumulasie van yster in parenkimale organe kan lei tot suikersiekte, hartversaking, lewer sirrose, artropatie, moegheid en 'n verskeidenheid van ander probleme indien voorkomende maatreëls nie getref word nie. OH word gewoonlik nie oorweeg as moontlike oorsaak vir hierdie toestande nie, veral nie in ouer mense nie waar die agtergrond-frekwensie van tipe II diabetes, osteoartritis en hartversaking in elk geval hoog is. Heterosigositeit vir die HFE mutasie C282Y, wat OH veroorsaak in ongeveer 80% van geaffekteerde gevalle wêreldwyd, is geassosieer met 'n verhoogde voorkoms van kanker van die kolon, rektum, maag en ook die hematologiese sisteem. Van die hoogste draer frekwensies ter wêreld vir hierdie mutasie (1/6) is gevind in die Afrikaner populasie van Suid-Afrika, wat daarop dui dat 1 uit elke 115 mense in die groep homosigoties vir die C282Y mutasie kan wees. Eenhonderd sewe-en-negentig bejaarde Afrikaner vrywilligers het aan die studie deelgeneem wat daarop gemik was om genotipe/fenotipe korrelasies uit te voer. Die kliniese beeld van elke individu is gedokumenteer, die yster status biochemies bepaal en HFE genotipering uitgevoer. Die a priori veronderstelling was dat oorlewing sou toeneem of afneem, of beide, afhangende van die geslag van die individu. Daar is voorheen 'n verband gevind tussen OH en die ontwikkeling van bogenoemde maligniteite, maar aan die ander kant kan dit moontlik ook beskerm teen anemie as gevolg van yster gebrek, wat juis die mees algemene oorsaak van anemie in die ouer persoon is. Hierdie studie het tot die volgende bevindings gelei: 1. Die draer frekwensie van mutasie C282Y was 1/8 in die bejaardes (dieselfde in mans en vrouens), wat effens laer is as die 1/6 wat gerappoteer is in jonger volwassenes. Slegs een C282Y homosigoot en twee C282YIH63D saamgestelde heterosigote is opgespoor, en al drie was vroulik. 2. Die voorkoms van suikersiekte, hartsiekte, gewrigspyne of 'n kombinasie van hierdie aandoenings het nie betekenisvol verskil tussen die C282Y heterosigote en die mutasienegatiewe groep nie. 3. Daar was slegs een persoon met rektum karsinoom in die groep van 24 bejaarde C282Y heterosigote, terwyl daar twee gevalle met rektum kanker en sewe gevalle met kolon kanker gevind is onder die 153 mutasie-negatiewe individue. Die enkele vroulike C282Y homosigoot wat opgespoor is het beide rektum- en kolonkanker gehad en is ongeveer 6 maande vóór voltooing van die tesis oorlede aan haar kolon karsinoom. 4. Dit wil voorkom asof serum ferritien veral in bejaardes 'n hoogs onbetroubare maatstaf is vir yster status, aangesien dit deur 'n verskeidenheid faktore beïnvloed word wat dikwels in bejaardes aanwesig is as gevolg van veroudering of veelvuldige komorbiditeite. 5. Die serum ferritien vlakke was laer as verwag in sowel die bejaarde C282Y-homosigoot as in die twee saamgestelde heterosigote met mutasies C282Y en H63D, wat moonlik die gevolg is van die wisselende graad van penetrasie van HFE mutasies. Dit is moontlik dat variasie in ander gene beskerming bied teen yster-oorlading deur middel van geen-geen interaksie. Die moontlikheid dat omgewingsfaktore (soos 'n lae-yster dieet) 'n belangrike rol speel in hierdie verband kan nie uitgesluit word nie, hoewel dit minder waarskynlik lyk te wees in die lig van die feit dat dieselfde neiging waargeneem is in alle mutasie-positiewe bejaardes. Die kans is dus redelik groot dat individue met die C282Y mutasie en betekenisvolle yster oorlading oorlede is voordat hulle die sewentiger jare kon bereik, veral omdat geeneen van die mans wat ingesluit is in die studie homosigoot of 'n saamgestelde heterosigoot was vir die mutasies wat geanaliseer is nie. Opsommend wil dit voorkom asof die teenwoordigheid van 'n mutante HFE geen nie 'n beter oorlewingskans bied op ouer leeftyd nie, en dit blyk ook dat mutasie draers met betekenisvolle ysteroorlading nie deur dokters misgekyk word nie. Verdere navorsing is nodig om meer lig te werp op die bydrae van geen-geen- en geen-omgewing interaksie in die kliniese manifestasie van OH, en ook hoe hierdie prosesse gemanipuleer kan word om die simptome van hierdie onder -gediagnoseerde siekte te voorkom.

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