holt-oram (heart-hand) syndrome- Things You Need To Know

Introduction to the holt-oram (heart-hand) syndrome

Question: what is holt-oram (heart-hand) syndrome?
Holt-Oram syndrome or heart-hand syndrome, is an inherited disorder characterized by abnormalities of the upper limbs and heart.

People with Holt-Oram syndrome have abnormally developed bones in their upper limbs. At least one abnormality in the bones of the wrist (carpal bones) is present in affected individuals. Often, these wrist bone abnormalities can be detected only by x-ray.

holt-oram syndrome

Individuals with Holt-Oram syndrome may have additional bone abnormalities including a missing thumb, a long thumb that looks like a finger, partial or complete absence of bones in the forearm, an underdeveloped bone of the upper arm, and abnormalities of the collar bone or shoulder blades. These skeletal abnormalities may affect one or both of the upper limbs.

If both upper limbs are affected, the bone abnormalities can be the same or different on each side. In cases where the skeletal abnormalities are not the same on both sides of the body, the left side is usually more severely affected than the right side.

About 75 percent of individuals with Holt-Oram syndrome have heart (cardiac) problems, which can be life-threatening. The most common problem is a defect in the muscular wall (septum) that separates the right and left sides of the heart.

A hole in the septum between the upper chambers of the heart (atria) is called an atrial septal defect (ASD), and a hole in the septum between the lower chambers of the heart (ventricles) is called a ventricular septal defect (VSD).

Some people with Holt-Oram syndrome have cardiac conduction disease, which is caused by abnormalities in the electrical system that coordinates contractions of the heart chambers. Cardiac conduction disease can lead to problems such as a slower-than-normal heart rate (bradycardia) or a rapid and uncoordinated contraction of the heart muscle (fibrillation). Cardiac conduction disease can occur along with other heart defects (such as ASD or VSD) or as the only heart problem in people with Holt-Oram syndrome.

The features of Holt-Oram syndrome are similar to those of a condition called Duane-radial ray syndrome; however, these two disorders are caused by mutations in different genes.

To see some X-Rays of holt-oram: HERE 

Causes of holt-oram (heart-hand) syndrome

Mutations in the TBX5 gene cause Holt-Oram syndrome. This gene provides instructions for making a protein that plays a role in the development of the heart and upper limbs before birth. In particular, this gene appears to be important for the process that divides the developing heart into four chambers (cardiac septation).

The TBX5 gene also appears to play a critical role in regulating the development of bones in the arm and hand. Mutations in this gene probably disrupt the development of the heart and upper limbs, leading to the characteristic features of Holt-Oram syndrome.

Diagnosis of holt-oram syndrome

What is genetic testing?
Genetic testing is a type of medical test that identifies changes in chromosomes, genes, or proteins. The results of a genetic test can confirm or rule out a suspected genetic condition or help determine a person’s chance of developing or passing on a genetic disorder. More than 1,000 genetic tests are currently in use, and more are being developed.

Several methods can be used for genetic testing:
  1. Molecular genetic tests (or gene tests) study single genes or short lengths of DNA to identify variations or mutations that lead to a genetic disorder.
  2. Chromosomal genetic tests analyze whole chromosomes or long lengths of DNA to see if there are large genetic changes, such as an extra copy of a chromosome, that cause a genetic condition.
  3. Biochemical genetic tests study the amount or activity level of proteins; abnormalities in either can indicate changes to the DNA that result in a genetic disorder.
Genetic testing is voluntary. Because testing has benefits as well as limitations and risks, the decision about whether to be tested is a personal and complex one. 
A geneticist or genetic counselor can help by providing information about the pros and cons of the test and discussing the social and emotional aspects of testing.
 

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