Background: The childhood-onset cerebral form of X-linked adrenoleukodystrophy, a demyelinating disorder of the central nervous system, leads to a vegetative state and death within 3-5 years once clinical symptoms are detectable. The hypothesis to be tested was whether bone-marrow transplantation can over an extended period of time halt the inexorable progressive demyelination and neurological deterioration.
Methods: 12 patients with childhood onset of cerebral X-linked adrenoleukodystrophy have been followed for 5-10 years after bone-marrow transplantation. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), neurological, neuropsychological, electrophysiological, and plasma very-long-chain fatty acid (VLCFA) measurements were used to evaluate the effect of this treatment.
Findings: MRI showed complete reversal of abnormalities in two patients and improvement in one. One patient showed no change from baseline to last follow-up. All eight patients who showed an initial period of continued demyelination stabilised and remained unchanged thereafter. Motor function remained normal or improved after bone-marrow transplantation in ten patients. Verbal intelligence remained within the normal range for 11 patients. Performance (non-verbal) abilities were improved or were stable in seven patients. Decline in performance abilities followed by stability occurred in five patients. Plasma VLCFA concentrations decreased by 55% and remained slightly above the upper limits of normal.
Interpretation: 5-10-year follow-up of 12 patients with childhood-onset cerebral X-linked adrenoleukodystrophy shows the long-term beneficial effect of bone marrow transplantation when the procedure is done at an early stage of the disease.