Neurodevelopmental outcomes of umbilical cord blood transplantation in metachromatic leukodystrophy

Biol Blood Marrow Transplant. 2013 Apr;19(4):616-24. doi: 10.1016/j.bbmt.2013.01.010. Epub 2013 Jan 22.


Metachromatic leukodystrophy (MLD) is an inherited demyelinating disease that causes progressive neurologic deterioration, leading to severe motor disability, developmental regression, seizures, blindness, deafness, and death. The disease presents as a late-infantile, juvenile, or adult form. Hematopoietic stem cell transplantation has been shown to slow disease progression. The purpose of this longitudinal study was to evaluate long-term treatment outcomes after unrelated donor umbilical cord blood (UCB) transplantation in pediatric patients according to disease burden and age at onset (ie, late-infantile versus juvenile). Engraftment, survival, treatment-related toxicity, graft-versus-host disease, neurophysiologic measures, and neurodevelopmental function were assessed. To evaluate whether signal intensity abnormalities on magnetic resonance imaging (ie, modified Loes scores) predict post-transplant cognitive and gross motor development, a general linear mixed model was fit to the data. Twenty-seven patients underwent transplantation after myeloablative chemotherapy; 24 patients engrafted after the initial transplantation. Seven patients died of infection, regimen-related toxicity, or disease progression. Twenty patients (6 with late-infantile onset and 14 with juvenile onset) were followed for a median of 5.1 years (range, 2.4 to 14.7). We found that patients with motor function symptoms at the time of transplant did not improve after transplantation. Brainstem auditory evoked responses, visual evoked potentials, electroencephalogram, and/or peripheral nerve conduction velocities stabilized or improved in juvenile patients but continued to worsen in most patients with the late-infantile presentation. Pretransplant modified Loes scores were highly correlated with developmental outcomes and predictive of cognitive and motor function. Children who were asymptomatic at the time of transplantation benefited most from the procedure. Children with juvenile onset and minimal symptoms showed stabilization or deterioration of motor skills but maintained cognitive skills. Overall, children with juvenile onset had better outcomes than those with late-infantile onset. As in other leukodystrophies, early intervention correlated with optimal outcomes. We conclude that UCB transplantation benefits children with presymptomatic late-infantile MLD or minimally symptomatic juvenile MLD.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Age of Onset
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cord Blood Stem Cell Transplantation*
  • Disease Progression
  • Electroencephalography
  • Female
  • Graft vs Host Disease / diagnosis
  • Graft vs Host Disease / mortality
  • Graft vs Host Disease / physiopathology
  • Graft vs Host Disease / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Leukodystrophy, Metachromatic / diagnosis
  • Leukodystrophy, Metachromatic / mortality
  • Leukodystrophy, Metachromatic / physiopathology
  • Leukodystrophy, Metachromatic / therapy*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Motor Skills / drug effects
  • Myeloablative Agonists / therapeutic use*
  • Neural Conduction / drug effects
  • Survival Analysis
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Unrelated Donors


  • Myeloablative Agonists