Infantile gangliosidoses: Mapping a timeline of clinical changes

Jeanine R. Jarnes Utz, Sarah Kim, Kelly King, Richard Ziegler, Lynn Schema, Evelyn S. Redtree, Chester B. Whitley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations


Background Infantile gangliosidoses include GM1 gangliosidosis and GM2 gangliosidosis (Tay-Sachs disease, Sandhoff disease). To date, natural history studies in infantile GM2 (iGM2) have been retrospective and conducted through surveys. Compared to iGM2, there is even less natural history information available on infantile GM1 disease (iGM1). There are no approved treatments for infantile gangliosidoses. Substrate reduction therapy using miglustat has been tried, but is limited by gastrointestinal side effects. Development of effective treatments will require identification of meaningful outcomes in the setting of rapidly progressive and fatal diseases. Objectives This study aimed to establish a timeline of clinical changes occurring in infantile gangliosidoses, prospectively, to: 1) characterize the natural history of these diseases; 2) improve planning of clinical care; and 3) identify meaningful future treatment outcome measures. Methods Patients were evaluated prospectively through ongoing clinical care. Results Twenty-three patients were evaluated: 8 infantile GM1, 9 infantile Tay-Sachs disease, 6 infantile Sandhoff disease. Common patterns of clinical change included: hypotonia before 6 months of age; severe motor skill impairment within first year of life; seizures; dysphagia and feeding-tube placement before 18 months of age. Neurodevelopmental testing scores reached the floor of the testing scale by 20 to 28 months of age. Vertebral beaking, kyphosis, and scoliosis were unique to patients with infantile GM1. Chest physiotherapy was associated with increased survival in iGM1 (p = 0.0056). Miglustat combined with a low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet (the Syner-G regimen) in patients who received a feeding-tube was associated with increased survival in infantile GM1 (p = 0.025). Conclusions This is the first prospective study of the natural history of infantile gangliosidoses and the very first natural history of infantile GM1. The homogeneity of the infantile gangliosidoses phenotype as demonstrated by the clinical events timeline in this study provides promising secondary outcome measure candidates. This study indicates that overall survival is a meaningful primary outcome measure for future clinical trials due to reliable timing and early occurrence of this event. Combination therapy approaches, instead of monotherapy approaches, will likely be the best way to optimize clinical outcomes. Combination therapy approaches include palliative therapies (e.g., chest physiotherapy) along with treatments that address the underlying disease pathology (e.g. miglustat or future gene therapies).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)170-179
Number of pages10
JournalMolecular Genetics and Metabolism
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the National Institutes of Health through the Lysosomal Disease Network (U54NS065768). The Lysosomal Disease Network (U54NS065768) is a part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Rare Diseases Clinical Research Network (RDCRN), supported through collaboration between the NIH Office of Rare Diseases Research (ORDR) at the National Center for Advancing Translational Science (NCATS), the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) and National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 The Authors


  • Disaccharidase
  • Ganglioside
  • Gangliosidosis
  • Ketogenic diet
  • Miglustat
  • Substrate


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