Albert Yan-Wo Chan

The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, Hong Kong

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Publications (17)32.19 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Abstract Inborn errors of metabolism (IEM) are a phenotypically and genetically heterogeneous group of disorders caused by a defect in a metabolic pathway, leading to malfunctioning metabolism and/or the accumulation of toxic intermediate metabolites. To date, more than 1000 different IEM have been identified. While individually rare, the cumulative incidence has been shown to be upwards of 1 in 800. Clinical presentations are protean, complicating diagnostic pathways. IEM are present in all ethnic groups and across every age. Some IEM are amenable to treatment, with promising outcomes. However, high clinical suspicion alone is not sufficient to reduce morbidities and mortalities. In the last decade, due to the advent of tandem mass spectrometry, expanded newborn screening (NBS) has become a mandatory public health strategy in most developed and developing countries. The technology allows inexpensive simultaneous detection of more than 30 different metabolic disorders in one single blood spot specimen at a cost of about USD 10 per baby, with commendable analytical accuracy and precision. The sensitivity and specificity of this method can be up to 99% and 99.995%, respectively, for most amino acid disorders, organic acidemias, and fatty acid oxidation defects. Cost-effectiveness studies have confirmed that the savings achieved through the use of expanded NBS programs are significantly greater than the costs of implementation. The adverse effects of false positive results are negligible in view of the economic health benefits generated by expanded NBS and these could be minimized through increased education, better communication, and improved technologies. Local screening agencies should be given the autonomy to develop their screening programs in order to keep pace with international advancements. The development of biochemical genetics is closely linked with expanded NBS. With ongoing advancements in nanotechnology and molecular genomics, the field of biochemical genetics is still expanding rapidly. The potential of tandem mass spectrometry is extending to cover more disorders. Indeed, the use of genetic markers in T-cell receptor excision circles for severe combined immunodeficiency is one promising example. NBS represents the highest volume of genetic testing. It is more than a test and it warrants systematic healthcare service delivery across the pre-analytical, analytical, and post-analytical phases. There should be a comprehensive reporting system entailing genetic counselling as well as short-term and long-term follow-up. It is essential to integrate existing clinical IEM services with the expanded NBS program to enable close communication between the laboratory, clinicians, and allied health parties. In this review, we will discuss the history of IEM, its clinical presentations in children and adult patients, and its incidence among different ethnicities; the history and recent expansion of NBS, its cost-effectiveness, associated pros and cons, and the ethical issues that can arise; the analytical aspects of tandem mass spectrometry and post-analytical perspectives regarding result interpretation.
    Critical Reviews in Clinical Laboratory Sciences 11/2013; 50(6):142-62. · 3.78 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Hyperekplexia is a rare neurologic disorder, characterized by excessive startle response to unexpected stimuli. There are 3 cardinal features: generalized stiffness immediately after birth that normalizes during the first year of life; excessive startle reflex to unexpected (particularly auditory) stimuli; and a short period of generalized stiffness following the startle response while patient cannot elicit voluntary movements. Awareness of this condition will avoid misdiagnosis of disorders like epilepsy. Clonazepam is an effective medical treatment. We report a patient whose frequent falls triggered by sudden noise or tactile stimuli was initially misdiagnosed as epilepsy. The clinical diagnosis was subsequently revised to hyperekplexia and confirmed by mutation analysis of the GLRA1 gene, which showed c.497G>C (p.Cys166Ser) and c.526delG (p.Asp176Metfs*16). Both of them are novel mutations. His response to clonazepam is dramatic and has been able to engage in sports and social activities.
    Journal of child neurology 11/2012; · 1.59 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: AIM: Inborn errors of metabolism (IEM) are an unpopular and difficult subject and most clinicians are unfamiliar with them. Although chemical pathologists have a long-standing practice in advising test strategy and result interpretation especially from primary care, such consultations are usually informal, unstructured and those related to IEM are infrequently requested. This study aims to provide a formal electronic consultation service and to apply tandem mass spectrometry-based dried blood spot metabolic screening (DBSM) as a rapid first-line test for patients suspected of IEM. METHODS: DBSM and a chemical pathology consultation were ordered through the hospital computer terminals. DBSM detected 29 metabolic disorders. The clinical data and metabolic results for the 12-month period were reviewed. RESULTS: There were 279 consultations of which 209 were initiated by paediatricians and 70 by adult physicians. The main reasons for consultation were developmental delay, neurological abnormalities, unexplained biochemical abnormalities and monitoring of patients with IEM. There were 158 DBSM requests. One positive case of isovaleric acidaemia was detected. CONCLUSIONS: All high-risk paediatric patients should have a DBSM and a timely electronic chemical pathology consultation as a rapid and cost-effective first-line screening. Provision of a visible, accessible and helpful consultation service enables professional reimbursement.
    Journal of clinical pathology 08/2012; · 2.43 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Very long-chain acyl-CoA dehydrogenase (VLCAD) deficiency is one of the most common fatty acid oxidation defects that cause sudden unexpected deaths in infants. The death attributed to VLCAD deficiency can be prevented by early diagnosis with expanded newborn screening using tandem mass spectrometry. A favorable outcome can be achieved with early diagnosis and prompt treatment. However, such newborn screening has not yet been available in Hong Kong. We report a 2-month-old boy who succumbed 5 hours after admission with the diagnosis of VLCAD deficiency confirmed by genetic analysis performed after death. The patient was compound heterozygous for a novel splicing mutation ACADVL NM_000018.2:c.277+2T>G; NC_000017.10:g.7123997T>G and a known disease-causing mutation ACADVL NM_000018.2:c.388_390del; NP_000009.1: p.Glu130del. Family screening was performed for at-risk siblings. The rapid downhill course of the patient clearly illustrates the need of newborn screening for early diagnosis. Our patient was asymptomatic before metabolic decompensation. However, once metabolic decompensation occurred, rapid deterioration and death followed, which obviated the opportunity to diagnose and treat. The only way to save these patients' lives and improve their outcome is early diagnosis and appropriate treatment. Therefore, we strongly urge the implementation of newborn screening using tandem mass spectrometry for VLCAD deficiency and other highly treatable inborn errors of metabolism in Hong Kong.
    Diagnostic molecular pathology: the American journal of surgical pathology, part B 07/2012; 21(3):184-7. · 1.58 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Neonatal diabetes mellitus (NDM) is a rare but important condition affecting approximately 1 in 100,000 newborns. Permanent form requires life-long treatment with difficulties in long-term compliance and metabolic complications. Exact genetic diagnosis can enable improved outcome and patient satisfaction by switching insulin injection to oral sulfonylureas. Successful cases have been reported with most experience on the KCNJ11-mutated permanent form. Here we report a successful experience in an ABCC8-mutated infant with permanent NDM. A 4-month-old Chinese girl was incidentally found to have hyperglycemia with baseline C-peptide of 0.05 nmol/L requiring insulin injection of 0.2 IU/kg/d. Genetic analysis of KCNJ11 and ABCC8 was performed by polymerase chain reaction and direct DNA sequencing at the age of 3 years. Sulfonylurea transition was conducted after the ABCC8 mutation detection. A novel homozygous ABCC8 NM_000352.3: c.3068 A>G; NP_000343.2: p.H1023R mutation was detected. C-peptide level increased to 0.14 nmol/L and HbA1c was normalized to 5.8% from 8.0% after 8 months of oral glibenclamide treatment with a maintenance dosage of 0.65 mg/kg/d. In this patient with ABCC8-mutated permanent NDM, oral sulfonylurea is also effective in achieving satisfactory diabetic control. Our study adds information to the personalized medicine practice of ABCC8-mutated permanent NDM.
    Diagnostic molecular pathology: the American journal of surgical pathology, part B 03/2012; 21(1):56-9. · 1.58 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Proopiomelanocortin (POMC) is the polypeptide precursor of several biologically active melanocortin peptides that have important roles in the regulation of food intake and energy homeostasis, adrenal steroidogenesis, melanocyte stimulation, and immune modulation. Mutation of the POMC gene has been associated with adrenal insufficiency, early-onset obesity, and red hair pigmentation. We describe an Indian boy with secondary hypocortisolism, hyperphagia, early-onset obesity, and skin pigmentation problem. Genetics analysis revealed a novel homozygous mutation in the POMC gene (p.Arg86Term). The boy also had central hypothyroidism in addition to the secondary hypocortisolism. Genetics analysis for the POMC gene should be considered in patients with secondary hypocortisolism, early-onset obesity, and pigmentary problems.
    Journal of pediatric endocrinology & metabolism: JPEM 01/2012; 25(1-2):175-9. · 0.75 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The diagnosis of aromatic L-amino acid decarboxylase (AADC) deficiency, one of the pediatric neurotransmitter disorders, is classically made with plasma enzyme level or cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) neurotransmitter profile, while both are technically demanding and the latter requires the invasive lumbar puncture. So far less than 100 cases have been reported worldwide with 20% from Taiwan. It was postulated that the condition might have been under-diagnosed among Chinese populations and a non-invasive screening tool should be developed in areas with high prevalence. Urine metabolic profiles performed by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) in a 31-month period were retrospectively reviewed: those with vanilmandelic acid concentration lower than one percentile plus the presence of 3-o-methyldopa were defined as positive and the patients were further evaluated. Among 1046 metabolic profiles (from 845 patients) reviewed, 3 profiles from 2 patients were screened positive: both cases had compatible CSF neurotransmitter profiles and the diagnosis was further confirmed by genetic analysis of DDC gene. 13 negative urinary metabolic profiles from 7 patients who had CSF neurotransmitters analyzed were identified as controls: all 7 CSF neurotransmitter profiles were not compatible for AADC deficiency. The GC-MS-based urine metabolic profiling was shown to be a satisfactory screening tool for AADC deficiency. Further confirmation can be performed by mutation analysis in the DDC gene, thus avoiding risks of lumbar puncture. We advocate all ethnic Chinese patients presenting with dystonia have their urine organic acids analyzed before proceeding to CSF neurotransmitters analysis.
    Clinica chimica acta; international journal of clinical chemistry 09/2011; 413(1-2):126-30. · 2.54 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Hyperphenylalaninemia is one of the commonest inborn errors of metabolism affecting approximately 1 in 15,000 livebirths. Among Chinese, BH4 deficiency leading to hyperphenylalaninemia is much commoner than in Caucasians. Exact diagnosis is important for the treatment and genetic counseling. In 2000, newborn screening for phenylketonuria is mandatory by law in China throughout the whole country. However, it is not yet included in the newborn screening program of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, China. Published data on hyperphenylalaninemia among HongKong Chinese are largely lacking. We report a 1-year-old Hong Kong Chinese girl with severe 6-pyruvoyl-tetrahydropterin synthase (PTPS) deficiency. The patient presented with infantile hypotonia and was misdiagnosed as cerebral palsy. She had very mild hyperphenylalaninemia (95 ╬╝mol/L), significantly high phenylalnine-to-tyrosine ratio (3.1), and elevated prolactin of 1109 mIU/L. Genetic analysis confirmed a homozygous known disease-causing mutation PTS NM_000317.1:c.259C>T; NP_000308.1: p.P87S in the proband. In our local experience, while the estimated prevalence of hyperphenylalaninemia due to PTPS deficiency was reported to be 1 in 29,542 live births, not a single case of phenylalanine hydroxylase deficiency has been reported. Furthermore, there is a general lack of awareness of inherited metabolic diseases in the community as well as among the medical professionals. Very often, a low index of clinical suspicion will lead to delay in diagnosis, multiple unnecessary and costly investigations, prolonged morbidity and anxiety to the family affected. We strongly recommend that expanded newborn screening for hyperphenylalaninemia should be implemented for every baby born in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, China.
    Chinese medical journal 08/2011; 124(16):2556-8. · 0.90 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Influenza-associated encephalopathy (IAE) is a potentially fatal neurological complication of influenza infection usually in the presence of high and persistent fever. Thermolabile carnitine palmitoyltransferase II enzyme (CPT-II) predisposes IAE, so far only described in Japanese. As the genetic origins of Japanese and Chinese are alike, similar genetic risk factors in CPT-II are expected. We report the first two unrelated Chinese patients of thermolabile CPT-II variants that underlain the persistent high fever-triggered viral infection-associated encephalopathy, multi-organ failure and death. Elevated (C16:0+C18:1)/C2 acylcarnitines ratio and the CPT2 susceptibility variant allele [p.Phe352Cys; p.Val368Ile] were detected. The asymptomatic family members of one patient also had abnormal long-chain acylcarnitines. In our experience of biochemical genetics, the elevated (C16:0+C18:1)/C2 acylcarnitines ratio is unusual and specific for thermolabile CPT-II variants. Allele frequency of [p.Phe352Cys; p.Val368Ile] among Hong Kong Chinese was 0.104, similar to Japanese data, and [p.Phe352Cys] has not been reported in Caucasians. This may explain the Asian-specific phenomenon of thermolabile CPT-II-associated IAE. We successfully demonstrated the thermolabile CPT-II variants in patients with viral infection-associated encephalopathy in another Asian population outside Japanese. The condition is likely under-recognized. With our first cases, it is envisaged that more cases will be diagnosed in subsequent years. The exact pathogenic mechanism of how other factors interplay with thermolabile CPT-II variants and high fever leading to IAE, is yet to be elucidated. Fasting and decreased intake during illness may aggravate the disease. Further studies including high risk and neonatal screening are warranted to investigate its expressivity, penetrance and temperature-dependent behaviors in thermolabile CPT-II carriers. This may lead to discovery of the therapeutic golden window by aggressive antipyretics and L-carnitine administration in avoiding the high mortality and morbidity of IAE.
    Journal of Human Genetics 06/2011; 56(8):617-21. · 2.37 Impact Factor
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    Pathology 04/2011; 43(3):273-4. · 2.66 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Data of classical inborn errors of metabolism (IEM) of amino acids, organic acids and fatty acid oxidation are largely lacking in Hong Kong, where mass spectrometry-based expanded newborn screening for IEM has not been initiated. The current study aimed to evaluate the approximate incidence, spectrum and other characteristics of classical IEM in Hong Kong, which would be important in developing an expanded newborn screening program for the local area. The laboratory records of plasma amino acids, plasma acylcarnitines and urine organic acids analyses from year 2005 to 2009 inclusive in three regional chemical pathology laboratories providing biochemical and genetic diagnostic services for IEM were retrospectively reviewed. Among the cohort, 43 patients were diagnosed of IEM, including 30 cases (69%) of amino acidemias (predominantly citrin deficiency, hyperphenylalaninemia due to 6-pyruvoyl-tetrahydropterin synthase deficiency and tyrosinemia type I), 5 cases (12%) of organic acidemias (predominantly holocarboxylase synthetase deficiency) and 8 cases (19%) of fatty acid oxidation defects (predominantly carnitine-acylcarnitine translocase deficiency). The incidence of classical IEM in Hong Kong was roughly estimated to be at least 1 case per 4122 lives births, or 0.243 cases per 1000 live births. This incidence is similar to those reported worldwide, including the mainland of China. The estimated incidence of hyperphenylalaninemia was 1 in 29 542 live births. Our data indicate that it is indisputable for the introduction of expanded newborn screening program in Hong Kong. Since Hong Kong is a metropolitan city, a comprehensive expanded newborn screening program and referral system should be available to serve the neonates born in the area.
    Chinese medical journal 04/2011; 124(7):983-9. · 0.90 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Von Hippel-Lindau (VHL) syndrome is an autosomal dominant familial cancer syndrome predisposing the affected individuals to multiple tumours in various organs. The genetic basis of VHL in Southern Chinese is largely unknown. In this study, we characterized the mutation spectrum of VHL in nine unrelated Southern Chinese families. Nine probands with clinical features of VHL, two symptomatic and eight asymptomatic family members were included in this study. Prenatal diagnosis was performed twice for one proband. Two probands had only isolated bilateral phaeochromocytoma. The VHL gene was screened for mutations by polymerase chain reaction, direct sequencing and multiplex ligation-dependent probe amplification (MLPA). The nine probands and the two symptomatic family members carried heterozygous germline mutations. Eight different VHL mutations were identified in the nine probands. One splicing mutation, NM_000551.2: c.463+1G > T, was novel. The other seven VHL mutations, c.233A > G [p.Asn78Ser], c.239G > T [p.Ser80Ile], c.319C > G [p.Arg107Gly], c.481C > T [p.Arg161X], c.482G > A [p.Arg161Gln], c.499C > T [p.Arg167Trp] and an exon 2 deletion, had been previously reported. Three asymptomatic family members were positive for the mutation and the other five tested negative. In prenatal diagnosis, the fetuses were positive for the mutation. Genetic analysis could accurately confirm VHL syndrome in patients with isolated tumours such as sporadic phaeochromocytoma or epididymal papillary cystadenoma. Mutation detection in asymptomatic family members allows regular tumour surveillance and early intervention to improve their prognosis. DNA-based diagnosis can have an important impact on clinical management for VHL families.
    Chinese medical journal 01/2011; 124(2):237-41. · 0.90 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Glutaric aciduria type II, or multiple acyl-CoA dehydrogenase deficiency, is a rare metabolic disorder inherited in an autosomal recessive manner. The condition can be caused by mutations in at least 3 genes, including ETFA, ETFB, and ETFDH. When this potentially lethal disorder is known for its clinical and biochemical heterogeneity, mutation analysis will be an invaluable part of diagnosis. We here described a Chinese adolescent boy who enjoyed good health earlier and presented at the age of 14 years with severe vomiting. His condition deteriorated rapidly and he succumbed shortly after. With a travel history before presentation and the late age of onset, diagnosis was particularly difficult. Findings in perimortem biochemical investigations and postmortem autopsy were guiding but not diagnostic. The diagnosis of glutaric aciduria type II was finally confirmed by mutation analysis performed by direct sequencing on genomic DNA from peripheral blood, which identified 2 different unreported missense mutations, c.502G>T (p.V168F) and c.786A>G (p.Q262R), in ETFA. The father and the mother were found to be heterozygous for the 2 mutations in ETFA respectively. Subsequent molecular family screening also ruled out the disease in his elder sister, who had a history of convulsion and a suspicious plasma acylcarnitine profile, and freed her from life-long supplementation. The case showed that molecular autopsies should be part of routine postmortem examination of unexplained sudden death in all age groups and DNA-friendly samples should be routinely collected and archived. In the era of personalized medicine with the power of modern genetics, molecular diagnosis should be obtained for heterogeneous diseases with different genetic defects but sharing similar clinical and/or biochemical phenotypes.
    Diagnostic molecular pathology: the American journal of surgical pathology, part B 09/2010; 19(3):184-6. · 1.58 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: A new herbal health product marketed for enhancing erectile function, namely Power58 Platinum, was purchased over-the-counter in Hong Kong. The product was tested for adulteration with sildenafil, tadalafil, and vardenafil as well as their structurally modified analogues. A new analogue of vardenafil, in which the N-ethylpiperazine ring and the sulphonyl group were removed from the vardenafil structure, was identified in the product.
    Journal of Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Analysis 04/2008; 46(4):804-7. · 2.95 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Cerebral autosomal dominant arteriopathy with subcortical infarcts and leukoencephalopathy (CADASIL) is an adult-onset hereditary condition caused by mutations in the Notch3 gene. A Chinese man was studied. Electronic microscopy examination of skin biopsy. The Notch3 gene was screened for mutations by polymerase chain reaction and direct DNA sequencing. Electronic microscopy showed the presence of deposits of granular osmiophilic material in dermal capillaries in the index patient. A novel heterozygous C271F in exon 6 was detected in the index patient. This heterozygous C271F mutation was also detected in the asymptomatic elder son but was not detected in the asymptomatic wife of the patient. Allele specific amplification showed that C271F was not detected in 100 normal subjects. We established the molecular basis of CADASIL in a Chinese man. Mutation detection assay provides a reliable method for confirming the diagnosis of CADASIL.
    Clinica Chimica Acta 03/2007; 376(1-2):229-32. · 2.85 Impact Factor
  • Wing-Tat Poon, Chi-Kong Lai, Albert Yan-Wo Chan
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    ABSTRACT: Aristolochic acid nephropathy (AAN) is a progressive tubulointerstitial nephropathy attributed to aristolochic acid (AA) toxicity. Five cases of AAN have been diagnosed in Hong Kong. Most were caused by the inadvertent substitution of innocuous herbs with Aristolochia species. Our findings contributed to the withdrawal of the AA-containing herbs and products in Hong Kong. This paper aims to review the topic of AAN from a Hong Kong perspective.
    Hong Kong Journal of Nephrology 01/2007; 9(1):7-14.
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    ABSTRACT: Diagnosis of tuberculous pleuritis is difficult because of its nonspecific clinical presentation and insufficient efficiency of traditional diagnostic methods. We investigated the use of adenosine deaminase (ADA) activity in tuberculous pleuritis diagnosis. We optimized a kinetic assay and retrospectively analysed 210 patients with exudative pleural effusions. Using the ROC curve, we determined the optimal cutoff for TB pleurisy. One hundred forty-seven exudative samples were nontuberculous (non-TB) and 63 were tuberculous (TB). There was statistically significant difference (p<0.0001) between the means of pleural fluid ADA levels among the TB and non-TB populations. The disease prevalence of TB pleurisy in the studied population was 30%. The cutoff value for diagnosing TB effusions was >55.8 U/L, with a sensitivity of 87.3% (95% CI: 76.5-94.3%) and specificity of 91.8% (95% CI: 86.2-95.7%). The positive predictive value (PPV) was 82.1% and the negative predictive value (NPV) was 94.4%. A pleural fluid ADA value <16.81 IU/L suggests that a tuberculous effusion is highly unlikely (100% sensitive with 100% NPV and 0% negative likelihood ratio for a pleural fluid ADA level>/=16.81 U/L). In addition, the area under the ROC curve was 0.933 (S.E.=0.0230, 95% CI: 0.890-0.963). Pleural fluid total ADA assay is a sensitive and specific test suitable for rapid diagnosis of TB pleurisy.
    Clinica Chimica Acta 04/2004; 341(1-2):101-7. · 2.85 Impact Factor