Methods of Biochemical Analysis

Most of the lysosomal storage diseases investigated at CENTOGENE are characterized by mutations
(defects) of genes that encode enzymes or transport proteins. Lysosomal enzymes are biological active proteins with a role in degradation of the complex molecules foreign or indigenous to the cell as part of their metabolism. The genetic defect of the respective gene is translated at the protein level (enzyme level) into an impaired or absent function. Thus, molecules which would normally be further processed or degraded by the enzyme, will accumulate – first in the lysosome, then in the cytosol and in the end in the intracellular space.

Biochemical tests can:

(i.) assert the specific enzymatic activity, or

(ii.) measure the levels of the substrate accumulated in the cells (biomarkers).

Biochemistry pipeline at CENTOGENE

At CENTOGENE, although we have classical fluorimetric and spectrophotometric methods available, the detection method of choice is mass spectrometry, more precisely high resolution multiple reaction
monitoring mass spectrometry (high resolution MRM-MS). MRM-MS, in combination with liquid
chromatography, provides high specificity, selectivity, precise quantification of the enzymatic products or of the biomarkers and requires minimal amount of biological sample (mainly dried blood spots).


Determination of enzymatic activity

To determine the enzymatic activity of a biological sample, a small amount of enzyme is extracted from the biological sample (either dried blood spots, whole blood, leucocytes, fibroblasts) and incubated with a synthetic substrate in conditions that mimic the biology of the enzymatic reaction. The product of the
enzymatic assay is detected by different analytical methods such as mass spectrometry, fluorimetry or photometry.

CENTOGENE adapted existing methods and has developed entire new methods for the determination of the enzyme activity in biological samples from patients suffering of a lysosomal storage disease such as: Gaucher, Fabry, Niemann Pick A/B, Pompe, mucopolysaccharidosis (MPS) 1, MPS 2, MPS 3b, MPS 4A, MPS 4B, MPS 6, metachromatic leucodystrophy (MLD), Wolman.

Each of the biochemical analyses performed in our laboratory require a specific biological material (e.g. blood, leucocytes, protein extract, plasma), but by using protocols developed in our laboratory and
techniques capable of quantifying using a very small amount of sample (e.g. mass spectrometry) we adapted most of our assays for the usage of dried blood spots of filtercards (e.g. CentoCard®). This
enables our clients to send samples easy, at room temperature and at low cost from any location in the world.

Biomarkers quantification

A biomarker is a endogenous molecule linked to clinical manifestation or outcome, that can be reliably quantified, is present in easily accessible clinical samples, realistically reflects burden of the disease,
reflects therapeutic measures and elucidates molecular pathogenesis of the disease. Elevated levels of biomarkers in patients are the (direct or indirect) consequence of impaired enzyme/transport protein
function and the severity of the symptoms is in all known cases directly related with their concentration in the tissues. Using mass spectrometry we are able to detect these biomarkers either in dried blood spots or in plasma.

At CENTOGENE, biomarkers quantification methods were developed for the diagnosis, prognosis and
treatment evaluation (e.g. enzyme replacement therapy) for the following diseases: Fabry, Gaucher,
Niemann-Pick A/B and C.


We are continuously working on developing and validating new biomarkers for the diagnosis of lysosomal storage disease. We have currently in our pipeline a new biomarker for Farber disease and one for metachromatic leukodytrophy.


Multidisciplinary, step-wise analyses

For a relevant diagnosis, the levels of the biomarkers in the pathological cases are correlated always with information from the genetic analyses and the enzymatic tests. This helps in confirming the diagnosis (Gaucher and Fabry) or to perform a differential diagnosis for Niemann Pick type A/B or C. For some
diseases, analyses are performed stepwise, the enzymatic assay is used as screening method and for, the possible patients, it is followed by biomarker quantification and by genetic confirmation of the disease.


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