ABCD syndrome


ABCD syndrome is a rare inherited condition. It has been found to be caused by mutation in the endothelin B receptor gene (EDNRB). This helped scientists discover that it is the same as type IV Waardenburg syndrome, also known as Shah-Waardenburg Syndrome.


  • Deafness
  • Intestinal dysfunction
  • Albinism
  • Black lock of hair
  • Lack of nerves in small intestine


Researchers in the past 20 years have determined that a gene mutation, specifically a homozygous mutation in the EDNRB gene, is the cause of ABCD syndrome. The advancement of technology led to new DNA material testing methods and this discovery changed the view of ABCD syndrome completely. A homozygous mutation means that there was an identical mutation on both the maternal and paternal genes. The identifying clinical report stated the test was done by scanning the Kurdish family for mutations in the EDNRB gene and the EDN3 gene by using a test called denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis. The electrophoresis test takes advantage of electrical currents and differences in melting points of fragments of DNA or RNA to move them based on their molecular weight; the differences in mobility of the fragments then can be analyzed to determine different sequences and to detect individual alleles. Different nucleotides in DNA are codes for certain proteins, which are formed by different patterns of the base pairs adenine, thymine, guanine, and cytosine. The combination of adenine and thymine and guanine and cytosine align on the double strands of DNA. The test results found "an aberrant DGGE pattern of exon 3 of the EDNRB gene. The mutation was determined to be a homozygous C to T base pair transition at the amino acid level, causing a premature stop in gene translation." This specialized testing enables geneticists to recognize the gene mutation that is the cause of ABCD syndrome.

New findings introduced an important break in the beliefs about ABCD syndrome because the endotherlin B gene is a gene involved in Shah-Waardenburg syndrome. The endothelin receptor B produces Waardenburg syndrome type IV. Researchers began discussing the possibility that ABCD syndrome was in fact not a syndrome; rather it was a type of another syndrome known as Waardenburg. Discovering that the same gene is involved in ABCD and Waardenburg syndrome is important because researchers can now look further into ways to fix this crucial gene.


The diagnosis can be made prenatally by ultrasound due to the phenotype displaying pigmentary disturbances, facial abnormalities, and other developmental defects. After birth, the diagnosis is initially made symptomatically and can be confirmed through genetic testing. If the diagnosis is not made early enough, complications can arise from Hirschsprung's disease.


If the Hirschsprung's disease is treated in time, ABCD sufferers live otherwise healthy lives. If it is not found soon enough, death often occurs in infancy. For those suffering hearing loss, it is generally regressive and the damage to hearing increases over time. Digestive problems from the colostomy and reattachment may exist, but most cases can be treated with laxatives. The only other debilitating symptom is hearing loss, which is usually degenerative and can only be treated with surgery or hearing aids.


Treatment for the disease itself is nonexistent, but there are options for most of the symptoms. For example, one suffering from hearing loss would be given hearing aids, and those with Hirschsprung's disorder can be treated with a colostomy.


  • NIH
  • Health Grades Inc