Hemoglobin Barts

Hemoglobin Barts, abbreviated Hb Barts, is an abnormal type of hemoglobin that consists of four gamma globins. It is moderately insoluble, and therefore accumulates in the red blood cells. It has an extremely high affinity for oxygen, resulting in almost no oxygen delivery to the tissues. As an embryo develops, it begins to produce alpha-globins at weeks 5-6 of development. When both HBA1 and HBA2, the two genes that code for alpha globins, are non-functional, only gamma globins are produced. These gamma globins bind to form hemoglobin Barts.[1] It is produced in the disease alpha-thalassemia and in the most severe of cases, it is the only form of haemoglobin in circulation. In this situation, a fetus will develop hydrops fetalis and normally die before or shortly after birth, unless intrauterine blood transfusion is performed.

Since hemoglobin Barts is elevated in alpha thalassaemia, it can be measured, providing a useful screening test for this disease in some populations.[2]

The ability to measure hemoglobin Barts makes it useful in newborn screening tests. If hemoglobin Barts is detected on a newborn screen, the patient is usually referred for further evaluation since detection of hemoglobin Barts can indicate either one alpha globin gene deletion, making the baby a silent alpha thalassemia carrier, two alpha globin gene deletions (alpha thalassemia), or hemoglobin H disease (three alpha globin gene deletions). Deletion of four alpha globin genes is not compatible with life.

This variant of hemoglobin is so called as it was discovered at St. Bartholomew's Hospital in London, also called St. Barts.


  1. "Pathophysiology of alpha thalassemia". www.uptodate.com. Retrieved 2016-08-30.
  2. F. P. van der Dijs, M. Volmer, D. G. van Gijssel-Wiersma, J. W. Smit, R. van Veen & F. A. Muskiet (September 1999). "Predictive value of cord blood hematological indices and hemoglobin Barts for the detection of heterozygous alpha-thalassemia-2 in an African-Caribbean population". Clinical chemistry. 45 (9): 1495–1500. PMID 10471652.
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