Canavan's disease is an autosomal recessive disorder caused by aspartoacylase deficiency. The deficiency of aspartoacylase leads to increased concentration of N-acetylaspartic acid in brain and body fluids. The failure to hydrolyze N-acetylaspartic acid causes disruption of myelin, resulting in spongy degeneration of the white matter of the brain. The clinical features of the disease are hypotonia in early life, which changes to spasticity, macrocephaly, head lag, and progressive severe mental retardation. Although Canavan's disease is panethnic, it is most prevalent in the Ashkenazi Jewish population. Research at the molecular level led to the cloning of the gene for aspartoacylase and development of a knockout mouse for Canavan's disease. These developments have afforded new tools for research in the attempts to understand the pathophysiology of Canavan's disease, design new therapies, and explore methods for gene transfer to the central nervous system.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
- Clinical Neurology