D. Elstein, A. Abrahamov, A. Dweck
Gaucher disease, the most prevalent lysosomal storage disorder, is inherited as an autosomal recessive condition. The gold standard for diagnosis is decreased acid β-glucosidase activity in the lymphocytes or fibroblasts; molecular analysis of mutations allows for some prognostication of disease severity. Prenatal diagnosis and carrier testing for at-risk families are currently available.There is tremendous phenotypic heterogeneity in the non-neuronopathic form (type I), ranging from clinically asymptomatic to massive hepatomegaly, hypersplenism, growth retardation in children and extensive involvement of bone and lungs. Presence on one allele of the most common mutation, N370S, which is the most prevalent among Ashkenazi Jews for whom there is a predilection for Gaucher disease, is protective of neurological involvement. Some mutations, such as 84GG and IVS2+1, are associated with more severe disease manifestations when appearing as compound heterozygotes with N370S, but when occurring in the homozygous state are not compatible with life. Other mutations, such as L444P, are associated with severe non-neurological disease when occurring as compound heterozygotes with N370S, but when occurring in the homozygous state may be predictive of neurological disease of either acute (type II) or subacute (type III) forms.In the past decade, enzyme replacement therapy has become available which has resulted in a reduction in liver and spleen volume and consequently improved anemia and thrombocytopenia in most patients. It has also engendered catch-up growth in many children, induced improvement in lung involvement secondary to Gaucher disease, and to some extent ameliorated episodes of bone pain. By virtue of treatment, many children who may have been severely affected no longer need to undergo splenectomy to treat hypersplenism, and therefore they are not at risk of bone involvement consequent to the loss of the preferred reservoir for lipid-laden ‘Gaucher cells’. However, enzyme treatment is ineffective in reversing neurological signs, requires a lifelong commitment to intravenous infusions, thereby reducing quality of life, and is relatively expensive for many national health schemes. Hence, alternative forms of treatment, such as substrate balance, are being explored. Symptomatic management, including orthopedic surgery, pain relief for bone pain and even splenectomy, still has importance for patients with Gaucher disease. In addition, there is the potential for bone marrow transplantation and, in the future, gene therapy to be curative, particularly for patients with the neuronopathic forms.