ONE OF MY TOUGHEST CASES: The Missing Enzyme
Hans Christoph Andersson, M.D., F.A.C.M.G.
Craig Mulcahy photo
Hayward Genetics Center
Tulane University Medical School
1430 Tulane Ave. | 988-5229
21 years of practice
Bachelor of Science – Music and Psychology,
M.D. Tulane University School of Medicine
Native of New Orleans
Dr. Hans Christoph Andersson was born into a musical family – his father served as the resident conductor of the New Orleans Opera Association for 25 years while his mother worked as a music librarian at Tulane University.
It would seem that a career in music was in his DNA, so to speak. Instead, Andersson fell in love with the study of genetics. He now serves as the director of the Hayward Genetics Center, the only comprehensive genetics center in Louisiana.
“In my role as a clinician I work with children and families affected by birth defects and inherited diseases,” he says. “Approximately 90 percent of all diseases in kids are caused by or have a genetic component.”
If, for instance, an abnormal result is found during a newborn screening – which now tests for approximately 30 different diseases and conditions – that child and family may be sent to Andersson.
During the same weekend of an expansion of the newborn screening in 2004, Andersson says he experienced one of his toughest cases.
“Through the newly expanded screen we discovered that one particular infant had elevated citrulline, which meant an enzyme was missing that allowed the body to metabolize nitrogen,” he says. “If that had gone undiscovered, the child would have slipped into a coma.”
Instead, the child was successfully treated for the condition.
Spurred by continuous advances, Andersson says he’s extremely excited about the future of his field.
“There’s no question that genetics is the future of medicine,” he says, adding that Tulane is already using the results of genetic testing to determine the use of specific cancer therapies. “Already we’re starting to see it beginning to be incorporated into all areas of medicine. At some point, you’re going to see gene therapy becoming a more mainstream part of diagnosis and treatment.”