Summary Diamond-Blackfan anaemia (DBA) is a congenital anaemia and broad developmental disease that develops soon after birth. The anaemia is due to failure of erythropoiesis, with normal platelet and myeloid lineages, and it can be managed with steroids, blood transfusions, or stem cell transplantation. Normal erythropoiesis after transplantation shows that the defect is intrinsic to an erythroid precursor. DBA is inherited in about 10-20% of cases, and genetic studies have identified mutations in a ribosomal protein gene, RPS19, in 25% of cases; there is evidence for involvement of at least two other genes. In yeast, RPS19 deletion leads to a block in ribosomal RNA biogenesis. The critical question is how mutations in RPS19 lead to the failure of proliferation and differentiation of erythroid progenitors. While this question has not yet been answered, understanding the biology of DBA may provide insight not only into the defect in erythropoisis, but also into the other developmental abnormalities that are present in about 40% of patients, and into the cancer predisposition that is inherent to DBA.
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