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The glycosphingolipid (GSL) lysosomal storage diseases result from mutations in the genes that encode the enzymes required for glycosphingolipid catabolism within lysosomes. They are relatively rare diseases, but are frequently severe in terms of their pathology. Many involve progressive neurodegeneration, and in the most severe forms result in death in early infancy. The therapeutic options for treating these diseases are limited, and for the majority of these disorders there are currently no therapies available. To date, most research has focused on correcting the genetic lesion by gene therapy or by augmenting the enzyme activity deficient in these patients by introducing fully functional enzyme. This can be achieved by bone marrow transplantation or intravenous infusion of purified or recombinant enzyme (enzyme replacement). Gene therapy and enzyme replacement therapy are disease specific, and pharmacological approaches for the treatment of these disorders have not been fully explored. In this commentary, the problems associated with disease therapy are discussed, and a pharmacological agent (N-butyldeoxynojirimycin) is presented for the potential generic treatment of this family of disorders. Successful prevention of glycosphingolipid storage in a mouse model of Tay-Sachs disease suggests that this strategy merits clinical evaluation.

Original publication




Journal article


Biochem Pharmacol

Publication Date





421 - 430


Animals, Disease Models, Animal, Genetic Therapy, Glycosphingolipids, Humans, Lysosomal Storage Diseases, Mice, Tay-Sachs Disease