June 2012                                                                                              Volume 21
In This Issue
Answer That Call!
DBAF Funds More Research and a Research-rich Conference
Where Are You Now?
Show Us Your Logo!
Journal Club
Answer That Call !
red phone


Attn: North American DBA Patients and Families:


The Diamond Blackfan Anemia Registry (DBAR) is currently updating the medical records of DBA patients. Because there are so few patients, it is imperative that all North American DBA patients are registered with the DBAR. The more accurate and complete information the DBAR has to analyze, the more answers we will have to our many questions. Please help!


Over the summer months, you will be receiving a phone call from the DBAR. The purpose of their call will be to update your family's information, including address, e-mail address, phone numbers, and to collect pertinent medical data, including current status of the DBA patient, any new findings or complications, current medications, as well as remission statistics and stem cell transplant outcomes. The DBAR team thanks you in advance for your cooperation and willingness to assist their efforts.   


Please note that because of HIPAA regulations, the Diamond Blackfan Anemia Registry (DBAR) and Diamond Blackfan Anemia Foundation (DBAF) CAN NOT share information.  


You must register with both. To ensure that your family is receiving the DBAF's 20 page printed newsletter, monthly e-newsletters, and other pertinent materials, please complete the DBA Foundation's registration form on our secure website. 


On behalf of the DBAR and DBAF, thank you! 

Upcoming Events
DBA Fun Day 
June 30, 2012
Clinton, MA
Julie Grady
DBA Family Meeting 
July 8 - 13, 2012 
Camp Sunshine
Casco, ME 
Dawn Baumgardner 

Friends of DBAF Golf Outing
& Silent Auction  
September 15, 2012 
Cherokee Hills Golf Club
Valley City, OH
Jim & Carol Mancuso
Ongoing Fundraisers

Family Letter Writing Campaign                           
Pre-printed letters and envelopes have been created for you to send to your contacts! Call or email for more information.
Dawn Baumgardner

Wristbands Available 
Twila Edwards
Tribute Cards Available
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In memory of...
Dawn Baumgardner 
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5" x 5" Decals Available
Dawn Baumgardner
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Cookbooks Available 

Betty Lightner
To order online, visit:
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The Diamond Blackfan Anemia Foundation(DBAF) is committed to keeping you updated and connected to the entire DBA community. The DBA Foundation is YOUR Foundation!  We encourage you to share your ideas, photos, and stories for our website and upcoming newsletters.  Contact

Thanks to YOU... 

                 We did it Again!

DBAF Funds More Research and a Research-rich Conference 

Dr. Fred Goldman
Dr. Fred Goldman


 The DBA Foundation (DBAF) is proud to announce the funding of Dr. Fredrick Goldman's research project entitled, Toward a cure for DBA: creation of patient-specific gene corrected hematopoietic stem cells using induced pluripotent stem cell technology. We are pleased to fund this exciting project that is on the cutting edge of research and has the potential to open doors to new and exciting treatment options for patients with DBA. 


The goals of this University of Alabama at Birmingham research project are (1) to create an in vitro model of DBA using iPSC (induced pluripotent stem cells) for producing HSC (hematopoietic stem cells) by reprogramming patient cultured skin fibroblasts and (2)  to use genetic recombination strategy to correct/replace the gene defect in iPS (induced pluripotent stem) cells derived from patients with the RPS-19 mutation. 


In general, this research may set the stage for an important patient-specific model system for studying developmental and physiological aspects of DBA that are currently unavailable.  Such iPS cells could also be used for drug screening, gene target treatment, and other purposes. Please see Dr. Steve Ellis's Journal Club article below for more exciting details.


DBAF is also pleased to announce the sponsorship of the 9th International Conference on Ribosome Synthesis to be held in Banff, Alberta, Canada, August 22-26, 2012. The conference brings together world experts on ribosomopathies and ribosome synthesis. Diamond Blackfan Anemia will be a major player at the meeting. This level of attention for Diamond Blackfan Anemia provides more opportunity for research and scientific advancement in understanding the disorder.  


The third project we are able to fund because of

Ellis at podium
Steven R. Ellis, PhD
DBAF Research Director

your generous support, is near and dear to our hearts. The DBAF is thrilled to announce the support of Dr. Steve Ellis' research support work at the University of Louisville. Dr. Steve Ellis' professional and personal commitment to DBA is immeasurable and deeply appreciated. Not only is he our dedicated Research Director, who is working tirelessly behind the scenes, he also writes the DBAF's e-newsletter monthly Journal Club, and his lab at the University of Louisville provides research support services to groups from all over the wold, including Vlachos/Lipton group in New York, Irma Dianzani, Stefan Karlsson, and most recently, Ross Fisher, a clinician in San Diego.  They expect to broaden these activities over the next year as they continue to move forward with a gene discovery consortium including Drs. Vlachos/Lipton, Bodine, and Arceci/Farrar.  Dr.Ellis's lab is also developing these strategies as a tool for DBA diagnosis.  We are grateful to Dr. Steve Ellis for the integral role he plays in researching DBA and in the lives of all DBA patients and their families.


The DBA Foundation sincerely thanks all our families and friends that have made funding of the research and conference possible.  

Our hope for a cure is research. Your generous donations and fundraisers allow us to advance our mission of supporting DBA patients, families, and research.

Where Are You Now?


The Diamond Blackfan Anemia Foundation, Inc. strives to keep you informed. We recently mailed out a 20 page printed newsletter. If you did not receive your copy, we may not have your current contact information. If it was forwarded to your current address, please provide us with your new address.


In order to best serve you, we need your help. To help keep our database information current, please complete the secure registration form on our website.

Show Us Your Logo!    


Matthew shirt 2

Matthew Pulnik of Clinton, MA is an extraordinary young man! For the third year, he will be hosting and organizing a "Fun Day for DBA." 


Matthew stated, 

"Two years ago I decided to have a Fun Day to raise money for Diamond Blackfan Anemia.  I raised over $1000 in just 3 hours through fun games and raffles and last year I raised over $2000. It was so much fun I am making it an annual event."  THANK YOU Matthew, family, and friends!
Here's the challenge: We would like to see how many places we can show off our logo! Snap a picture sporting our logo and send us your story. Draw it, print it out, wear it, wave
it, tattoo it, carve it, stick it... be creative!  Take us to school, on vacation, to the hospital, on a plane, to the game, in your home... anywhere!  Show us your logo!  Send your photos and stories to  
DBAF's Monthly Journal Club
Steve Ellis
Steven R. Ellis, PhD
DBAF Research Director


The latest in an increasingly long list of genes responsible for DBA has recently been published by Dr. Hanna Gazda and her colleagues in the Journal of Clinical Investigation1.  Lo and behold, this is the first gene for DBA that does not encode a ribosomal protein.  Instead, this gene encodes GATA1, a transcription factor involved in erythroid development.  I will have more to say about GATA1 in subsequent Journals Clubs, but for now what this finding illustrates is the underlying genetic complexity of DBA and that they may be alternative pathways leading to the same disease state.  This new finding raises the question of whether there are different forms of DBA, and if so, whether finding a cure for one form will be of benefit for another. 


One potential cure that may not be dependent on the gene affected, is the possibility of using gene-corrected patient-derived induced pluripotent stem cells (IPSCs) to treat DBA patients.  In an accompanying article in this month's newsletter, the DBAF has announced funding for Dr. Fred Goldman which will allow him to create and begin to study IPSCs from DBA patients. 


A logical question at this juncture is, "What are IPSCs?"  IPSCs are cells derived from a human subject that are genetically re-programmed to behave in a manner similar to embryonic stem cells, which you've probably heard discussed in the news and many other venues.  Embryonic stem cells are cells created early during human development shortly after an egg is fertilized.  These cells can differentiate into any cell type within the body and are referred to as being "pluripotent" to reflect this fact.  The idea is that since these cells can differentiate into any other cell type, it might be possible to use these cells to replace cells that die either from old age, virus destruction, or even genetic diseases.  There is considerable controversy around the use of embryonic stem cells, as they are derived from human embryos and so are construed by many as destroying human life, and so, morally objectionable as a therapeutic tool2.


This brings us back to the idea of using IPSCs as a surrogate for embryonic stem cells.  These cells, which can be derived from cells found in human skin, can be re-programmed in a test tube back to a state where they behave much like an embryonic stem cell, and so could potentially be developed as cellular therapeutics without the same type of ethical qualms one encounters with embryonic stem cells.  Moreover, by using cells derived from a patient to treat the same patient, it should be possible to avoid complications that arise from immunological rejection when transplanting organs or tissues from one individual to another. 


The overly simplistic strategy for employing this technique as a cure for DBA is to take a patient's cells (let's say skin fibroblasts), re-program them to IPSCs, correct the underlying genetic defect, induce these pluripotent cells to become hematopoietic stem cells, and then transplant the patient with their own gene-corrected hematopoietic stem cells.  The beauty here is that it really doesn't matter which gene is affected, as it is just a matter of correcting one gene rather than another (not that this is a trivial process).  Of course, you must know the gene affected for this strategy to work, so consider this a shameless plug for ongoing gene discovery efforts in the DBA field.


So, what's the catch in all this, as it most certainly seems too good to be true? Well, such skepticism is warranted because at present there are still considerable obstacles to overcome before IPSCs become a therapeutic reality.  The encouraging news however, is that because of its promise there are many groups working in this area on many disease fronts.  In this regard, there are some very interesting papers recently published on Fanconi anemia field that illustrate where we may be going in applying this technology to DBA 3


Fanconi anemia is another inherited bone marrow failure that differs from DBA in being caused by a defect in DBA repair rather than ribosome synthesis.  Nevertheless, many of the principles involved in developing IPSCs for therapeutic uses in Fanconi anemia also apply to DBA.  One of the challenges for creating IPSCs from Fanconi patients is that the re-programming process tends to activate p53, which also appears to be activated as part of the disease process.  This double whammy, so to speak, in inducing p53 which in turn promotes cell death or arrests cell division, appears to reduce the frequency in which investigators are able to derive IPCSs from patient samples.  We might expect some of the same challenges for DBA as p53 contributes to the disease process here as well 4.  One strategy used by investigators in the Fanconi anemia field to get around this problem is to correct the genetic defect first in patient cells and then convert them to IPSCs.  While this strategy has its own set of challenges, the paper by Müller and colleagues 3 and the accompanying commentary 5 illustrate that these challenges can be overcome and therefore bode well for efforts in creating IPSCs from DBA patients. 


While progress is being made in resolving technical issues relating to developing IPSCs from certain patient populations, there are larger, more frightening, issues of safety that will need to be resolved before therapeutic use of IPSCs will become a reality.  A good review on the promises and challenges of using IPSCs therapeutically has been published by Müller, Daley, and Williams 6


One of the major concerns with IPSCs safety involves the re-programming process itself.  When initially developed, it took the forced expression of 4 different genes to reprogram somatic fibroblasts to IPSCs.  These genes were introduced into fibroblasts on viral vectors which integrate randomly into the human genome. This integration can activate certain genes or inhibit others and has been linked to cancer induction in certain gene therapy trials 7.  Moreover, one of the four genes initially used in reprogramming is c-Myc, a major human oncogene, and so pose a significant cancer risk.  It is now possible to reprogram cells without this oncogene thereby significantly reducing cancer risk.  There are also strategies being developed to put all of the genes needed for re-programming on a single viral vector to limit the number of integration sites and further reduce the cancer risk.  Another cancer risk is that when undifferentiated cells like IPSCs are injected into animals they create what are known as tetratomas, undifferentiated cells mass which have tumor like properties.  So strategies are being developed to eliminate teratoma formation.  


Even with reprogramming strategies becoming safer, there are additional obstacles to making therapeutic IPSCs a reality.  Particularly relevant for DBA, is the fact that so far no one has been able to figure out how to create transplantable hematopoietic stem cells from IPSCs.  I for one have complete faith in the creativity of the innumerable minds working on this problem and do not foresee it remaining a road block for too long.


Despite the fact that using IPSCs therapeutically in humans may still be a ways off, having IPSCs for experimental purposes will be a big boon for DBA research.  These cells could be used to study the molecular underpinnings of DBA or as tools for drug screens.  So let us wish Dr. Goldman all the best in his studies to create IPSCs from DBA patients, and look forward to the future and the myriad of ways that IPSCs can be used to find a cure. 


1.            Sankaran VG, Ghazvinian R, Do R, et al. Exome sequencing identifies GATA1 mutations resulting in Diamond-Blackfan anemia. J Clin Invest. 2012. Prepublished on 2012/06/19 as DOI 10.1172/JCI63597.

2.            Lo B, Parham L. Ethical issues in stem cell research. Endocr Rev. 2009;30(3):204-213. Prepublished on 2009/04/16 as DOI 10.1210/er.2008-0031.

3.            Muller LU, Milsom MD, Harris CE, et al. Overcoming reprogramming resistance of Fanconi anemia cells. Blood. 2012;119(23):5449-5457. Prepublished on 2012/03/01 as DOI 10.1182/blood-2012-02-408674.

4.            Dutt S, Narla A, Lin K, et al. Haploinsufficiency for ribosomal protein genes causes selective activation of p53 in human erythroid progenitor cells. Blood. 2011;117(9):2567-2576. Prepublished on 2010/11/12 as DOI 10.1182/blood-2010-07-295238.

5.            Papapetrou EP. FA iPS: correction or reprogramming first? Blood. 2012;119(23):5341-5342. Prepublished on 2012/06/09 as DOI 10.1182/blood-2012-04-417246.

6.            Muller LU, Daley GQ, Williams DA. Upping the ante: recent advances in direct reprogramming. Mol Ther. 2009;17(6):947-953. Prepublished on 2009/04/02 as DOI 10.1038/mt.2009.72.

7.            Baum C, Modlich U, Gohring G, Schlegelberger B. Concise review: managing genotoxicity in the therapeutic modification of stem cells. Stem Cells. 2011;29(10):1479-1484. Prepublished on 2011/09/08 as DOI 10.1002/stem.716.