Canavan disease

(kan′ă-van″ )

[Myrtle May Moore Canavan, U.S. pathologist, 1879-1953]
A rare inherited neurodegenerative disorder, one of the lysosomal storage diseases.

INCIDENCE
The disease most commonly occurs in Jewish families of Ashkenazi descent.

CAUSES
The disease is caused by a lack of an enzyme (aspartoacylase) needed to metabolize N-acetyl-aspartate (NAA). Excessive buildup of NAA in the white matter of the brain causes the symptoms of the disease.

SYMPTOMS AND SIGNS
Affected children have difficulties with posture, feeding, muscle tone, seizures, and mental retardation. Symptoms usually become apparent in the first year of life. Developmental delays and failure to meet psychomotor milestones in childhood are rapidly followed by brain atrophy and early mortality.

TREATMENT
Gene therapy holds promise for enhancing the activity of aspartoacylase and reducing the accumulation of NAA in the brain.

IMPACT ON HEALTH
The prognosis is poor: patients usually die before 4 years of age, but may survive into their 20s.

PATIENT CARE
Families of affected children should seek genetic counseling and screening. Resources for support include the Canavan Foundation and the National Tay-Sachs and Allied Diseases Association.

SYN: SEE: aspartoacylase deficiency; SEE: Canavan-van Bogaert-Bertrand disease

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