During the last decades, efforts have been made to elucidate the complex mechanisms underlying neuronal damage in glutaryl-CoA dehydrogenase deficiency. A combination of in vitro and in vivo investigations have facilitated the development of several hypotheses, including the probable pathogenic role of accumulating glutaric acid and 3-hydroxyglutaric acid. However, there are still many shortcomings that limit an evidence-based approach to treating this inborn error of metabolism. Major future goals should include generation of a suitable animal model for acute striatal necrosis, investigation of the formation, distribution and exact intra- and extracellular concentrations of accumulating metabolites, a deeper understanding of striatal vulnerability, and systematic investigation of effects on cerebral gene expression during development and of the modulatory role of inflammatory cytokines.
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The primary goal of our research will always be to find effective and affordable treatments for patients. Over the years, we have shared our methods and discoveries with the broader scientific community.
In the over 30 years since the Clinic's founding, our staff have published more than 120 peer-reviewed research papers, fueled by close collaboration between our clinical and laboratory teams and effective relationships with academic, scientific, and clinical partners.
Authors: Mühlhausen C, Hoffmann GF, Strauss KA, Kölker S, Okun JG, Greenberg CR, Naughten ER, Ullrich K
This paper summarizes the published experience as well as results of the 3rd International Workshop on Glutaryl-CoA Dehydrogenase Deficiency held in October 2003 in Heidelberg, Germany, on the topic treatment of patients with glutaryl-CoA dehydrogenase (GCDH) deficiency. So far no international recommendation for treatment of GCDH deficiency exists. Such an approach is hampered by several facts, namely the lack of an in-depth understanding of the pathophysiology of the disease, the lack of prospective studies, including the evaluation of drug monotherapy, and lack of objective documentation of clinical changes (e.g. video documentation) during pharmacotherapy.
Authors: Morton DH, Morton CS, Strauss KA, Robinson DL, Puffenberger EG, Hendrickson C, Kelley RI
The Clinic for Special Children in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, is a community-supported, nonprofit pediatric medical practice for Amish and Mennonite children who have genetic disorders. Over a 14-year period, 1988-2002, we have encountered 39 heritable disorders among the Amish and 23 among the Mennonites. We emphasize early recognition and long-term medical care of children with genetic conditions. In the clinic laboratory we perform amino acid analyses by high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC), organic acid analyses by gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS), and molecular diagnoses and carrier tests by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) amplification and sequencing or restriction digestion. Regional hospitals and midwives routinely send whole-blood filter paper neonatal screens for tandem mass spectrometry and other modern analytical methods to detect 14 of the metabolic disorders found in these populations as part of the NeoGen Inc. Supplemental Newborn Screening Program (Pittsburgh, PA). Medical care based on disease pathophysiology reduces morbidity, mortality, and costs for the majority of disorders. Among our patients who are homozygous for the same mutation, differences in disease severity are not unusual. Clinical problems typically arise from the interaction of the underlying genetic disorder with common infections, malnutrition, injuries, and immune dysfunction that act through classical pathophysiological disease mechanisms to influence the natural history of disease.
Authors: Strauss KA, Puffenberger EG, Robinson DL, Morton DH
Type I glutaric aciduria (GA1) results from mitochondrial matrix flavoprotein glutaryl-CoA dehydrogenase deficiency and is a cause of acute striatal necrosis in infancy. We present detailed clinical, neuroradiologic, molecular, biochemical, and functional data on 77 patients with GA1 representative of a 14-year clinical experience. Microencephalic macrocephaly at birth is the earliest sign of GA1 and is associated with stretched bridging veins that can be a cause of subdural hematoma and acute retinal hemorrhage. Acute striatal necrosis during infancy is the principal cause of morbidity and mortality and leads to chronic oromotor, gastroesophageal, skeletal, and respiratory complications of dystonia. Injury to the putamen is heralded by abrupt-onset behavioral arrest. Tissue degeneration is stroke-like in pace, radiologic appearance, and irreversibility. It is uniformly symmetric, regionally selective, confined to children under 18 months of age, and occurs almost always during an infectious illness. Our knowledge of disease mechanisms, though incomplete, is sufficient to allow a rational approach to management of encephalopathic crises. Screening of asymptomatic newborns with GA1 followed by thoughtful prospective care reduces the incidence of radiologically and clinically evident basal ganglia injury from approximately 90% to 35%. Uninjured children have good developmental outcomes and thrive within Amish and non-Amish communities.
Authors: Strauss KA, Morton DH
Type I glutaric aciduria (GA1) is an inborn error of organic acid metabolism that is associated with acute neurological crises, typically precipitated by an infectious illness. The neurological crisis coincides with swelling, metabolic depression, and necrosis of basal ganglia gray matter, especially the putamina and can be visualized as focal, stroke-like, signal hyperintensity on MRI. Here we focus on the stroke-like nature of striatal necrosis and its similarity to brain injury that occurs in infants after hypoxia-ischemia or systemic intoxication with 3-nitropropionic acid (NPA). These conditions share several features including abrupt onset, preferential effect in the striatum and age-specific susceptibility. The pathophysiology of the conditions is reviewed and a model proposed herein. We encourage investigators to test this model in an appropriate experimental system.
Authors: Puffenberger EG
The Old Order Mennonites of southeastern Pennsylvania are a religious isolate with origins in 16th-century Switzerland. The Swiss Mennonites immigrated to Pennsylvania over a 50-year period in the early 18th century. The history of this population in the United States provides insight into the increased incidence of several genetic diseases, most notably maple syrup urine disease (MSUD), Hirschsprung disease (HSCR), and congenital nephrotic syndrome. A comparison between the Old Order Mennonites and the Old Order Amish demonstrates the unique genetic heritage of each group despite a common religious and geographic history. Unexpectedly, several diseases in both groups demonstrate allelic and/or locus heterogeneity. The population genetics of the 1312T –> A BCKDHA gene mutation, which causes classical MSUD, are presented in detail. The incidence of MSUD in the Old Order Mennonites is estimated to be 1/358 births, yielding a corrected carrier frequency of 7.96% and a mutation allele frequency of 4.15%. Analysis of the population demonstrates that repeated cycles of sampling effects, population bottlenecks, and subsequent genetic drift were important in shaping the current allele frequencies. A linkage disequilibrium analysis of 1312T –> A mutation haplotypes is provided and discussed in the context of the known genealogical history of the population. Finally, data from microsatellite marker genotyping within the Old Order Mennonite population are provided that show a significant but modest decrease in genetic diversity and elevated levels of background linkage disequilibrium.
Authors: Jin JP, Brotto MA, Hossain MM, Huang QQ, Brotto LS, Nosek TM, Morton DH, Crawford TO
A lethal form of nemaline myopathy, named “Amish Nemaline Myopathy” (ANM), is linked to a nonsense mutation at codon Glu180 in the slow skeletal muscle troponin T (TnT) gene. We found that neither the intact nor the truncated slow TnT protein was present in the muscle of patients with ANM. The complete loss of slow TnT is consistent with the observed recessive pattern of inheritance of the disease and indicates a critical role of the COOH-terminal T2 domain in the integration of TnT into myofibrils. Expression of slow and fast isoforms of TnT is fiber-type specific. The lack of slow TnT results in selective atrophy of type 1 fibers. Slow TnT confers a higher Ca2+ sensitivity than does fast TnT in single fiber contractility assays. Despite the lack of slow TnT, individuals with ANM have normal muscle power at birth. The postnatal onset and infantile progression of ANM correspond to a down-regulation of cardiac and embryonic splice variants of fast TnT in normal developing human skeletal muscle, suggesting that the fetal TnT isoforms complement slow TnT. These results lay the foundation for understanding the molecular pathophysiology and the potential targeted therapy of ANM.
Authors: Strauss KA, Morton DH
Classic maple syrup disease can be managed to allow a benign neonatal course, normal growth, and low hospitalization rates. The majority of affected infants that are prospectively managed have good neurodevelopmental outcome; however, acute metabolic intoxication and neurologic deterioration can develop rapidly at any age. Each episode is associated with a risk for cerebral edema, cerebrovascular compromise, and brain herniation. High plasma leucine and, possibly, alpha-ketoisocaproate are the principal neurotoxins in maple syrup disease. Plasma levels rise rapidly in association with net protein catabolism provoked by common infections and injuries. Transient periods of maple syrup disease encephalopathy appear fully reversible, leaving no clinically detectable neurologic sequelae. In contrast, prolonged amino acid imbalance, particularly if occurring during the critical period of brain development, leads to neuronal hypoplasia, a paucity of synapses, and undermyelination. Stagnated maturation and inadequate nutritional maintenance of brain structure have lifelong neurologic and behavioral consequences. Core elements of effective long-term therapy include screening and identification of asymptomatic newborns, frequent plasma amino acid monitoring, careful attention to branched-chain amino acid nurtriture, prevention of cerebral essential amino acid deficiencies, adequate provision of essential omega-3 class fatty acids and micronutrients deficient in commercial formulas, methods for home monitoring of metabolic control, and a commitment to lifelong therapy. Recognizing the risk for acute leucine intoxication depends on anticipating effects of common childhood infection and physiologic stresses on whole body protein turnover. Successful management of metabolic decompensation is based on the use of home sick-day regimens, rapid availability of branched-chain amino acid-free hyperalimentation solutions for hospitalized children, prevention of hyponatremia in patients with leucinosis, and frequent adjustments of intravenous therapies guided by plasma amino acid levels and indices of metabolic and clinical response.
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Our clinic serves as a trusted medical home for families working to prevent and treat genetic illness in their children. Serving predominantly Amish and Mennonite families, the sturdy, timber-framed building was "raised" by the hands of those in the Anabaptist community outside of Strasburg, PA. Inside the clinic is filled with an array of high-tech gene sequencing that allows us to deliver state of the art care in a nurturing environment.