Therapeutic approaches to the challenge of neuronal ceroid lipofuscinoses.
The Neuronal Ceroid Lipofuscinoses (NCLs) are lysosomal storage diseases (LSDs) affecting the central nervous system (CNS), with generally recessive inheritance. They are characterized by pathological lipofuscin-like material accumulating in cells. The clinical phenotypes at all onset ages show progressive loss of vision, decreasing cognitive and motor skills, epileptic seizures and premature death, with dementia without visual loss prominent in the rarer adult forms. Eight causal genes, CLN10/CTSD, CLN1/PPT1, CLN2/TPP1, CLN3, CLN5, CLN6, CLN7/MFSD8, CLN8, with more than 265 mutations and 38 polymorphisms (http://www.ucl.ac.uk/ncl) have been described. Other NCL genes are hypothesized, including CLN4 and CLN9; CLCN6, CLCN7 and possibly SGSH are under study. Some therapeutic strategies applied to other LSDs with significant systemic involvement would not be effective in NCLs due to the necessity of passing the blood brain barrier to prevent the neurodegeneration, repair or restore the CNS functionality. There are therapies for the NCLs currently at preclinical stages and under phase 1 trials to establish safety in affected children. These approaches involve enzyme replacement, gene therapy, neural stem cell replacement, immune therapy and other pharmacological approaches. In the next decade, progress in the understanding of the natural history and the biochemical and molecular cascade of events relevant to the pathogenesis of these diseases in humans and animal models will be required to achieve significant therapeutic advances.