Multiplex droplet digital PCR method applicable to newborn screening, carrier status, and assessment of spinal muscular atrophy

Noemi Vidal-Folch, Dimitar Gavrilov, Kimiyo Raymond, Piero Rinaldo, Silvia Tortorelli, Dietrich Matern, Devin Oglesbee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is a progressive neuromuscular disorder with neuronal degeneration leading to muscular atrophy and respiratory failure. SMA is frequently caused by homozygous deletions that include exon 7 of the survival motor neuron gene SMN1, and its clinical course is influenced by the copy number of a nearby 5q SMN1 paralog, SMN2. Multiple ligation probe amplification (MLPA) and real-time quantitative PCR (qPCR) can detect SMN1 deletions. Yet, qPCR needs normalization or standard curves, and MLPA demands DNA concentrations above those obtainable from dried blood spots (DBSs). We developed a multiplex, droplet digital PCR (ddPCR) method for the simultaneous detection of SMN1 deletions and SMN2 copy number variation in DBS and other tissues. An SMN1 Sanger sequencing process for DBS was also developed. METHODS: SMN1, SMN2, and RPP30 concentrations were simultaneously measured with a Bio-Rad AutoDG and QX200 ddPCR system. A total of 1530 DBSs and 12 SMA patients were tested. RESULTS: Population studies confirmed 1 to 5 SMN1 exon 7 copies detected in unaffected specimens, whereas patients with SMA revealed 0 SMN1 copies. Intraassay and interassay imprecisions were <7.1% CV for individuals with ≥1 SMN1 copies. Testing 12 SMA-positive samples resulted in 100% sensitivity and specificity. CONCLUSIONS: This ddPCR method is sensitive, specific, and applicable to newborn screening and carrier status determination for SMA. It can also be incorporated with a parallel ddPCR T-cell excision circles assay for severe combined immunodeficiencies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1753-1761
Number of pages9
JournalClinical chemistry
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Biochemistry, medical


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