The synthesis of adult-type hemoglobin was measured in small samples of peripheral blood cells from 9- to 18-week human fetuses. Hemoglobin indistinguishable from hemoglobin A was identified by ion-exchange chromatography, electrophoresis at pH 8.6, tryptic peptide analysis, and the insensitivity of its synthesis to the action of O-methylthreonine. Synthesis of hemoglobin A accounted for 8 to 14 percent of total hemoglobin synthesis and was demonstrated in as little as 10 microliters of fetal blood. These studies provide sensitive methods for the detection of β chain types in hemoglobin synthesized by the human fetus at midtrimester. If methods to obtain small quantities of fetal blood at midtrimester become available, these techniques should be applicable to the antenatal detection of sickle cell anemia and related hemoglobinopathies.
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