Infantile gangliosidoses: Mapping a timeline of clinical changes

Mol Genet Metab. 2017 Jun;121(2):170-179. doi: 10.1016/j.ymgme.2017.04.011. Epub 2017 Apr 29.


Background: Infantile gangliosidoses include GM1 gangliosidosis and GM2 gangliosidosis (Tay-Sachs disease, Sandhoff disease). To date, natural history studies in infantile GM2 (iGM2) have been retrospective and conducted through surveys. Compared to iGM2, there is even less natural history information available on infantile GM1 disease (iGM1). There are no approved treatments for infantile gangliosidoses. Substrate reduction therapy using miglustat has been tried, but is limited by gastrointestinal side effects. Development of effective treatments will require identification of meaningful outcomes in the setting of rapidly progressive and fatal diseases.

Objectives: This study aimed to establish a timeline of clinical changes occurring in infantile gangliosidoses, prospectively, to: 1) characterize the natural history of these diseases; 2) improve planning of clinical care; and 3) identify meaningful future treatment outcome measures.

Methods: Patients were evaluated prospectively through ongoing clinical care.

Results: Twenty-three patients were evaluated: 8 infantile GM1, 9 infantile Tay-Sachs disease, 6 infantile Sandhoff disease. Common patterns of clinical change included: hypotonia before 6months of age; severe motor skill impairment within first year of life; seizures; dysphagia and feeding-tube placement before 18months of age. Neurodevelopmental testing scores reached the floor of the testing scale by 20 to 28months of age. Vertebral beaking, kyphosis, and scoliosis were unique to patients with infantile GM1. Chest physiotherapy was associated with increased survival in iGM1 (p=0.0056). Miglustat combined with a low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet (the Syner-G regimen) in patients who received a feeding-tube was associated with increased survival in infantile GM1 (p=0.025).

Conclusions: This is the first prospective study of the natural history of infantile gangliosidoses and the very first natural history of infantile GM1. The homogeneity of the infantile gangliosidoses phenotype as demonstrated by the clinical events timeline in this study provides promising secondary outcome measure candidates. This study indicates that overall survival is a meaningful primary outcome measure for future clinical trials due to reliable timing and early occurrence of this event. Combination therapy approaches, instead of monotherapy approaches, will likely be the best way to optimize clinical outcomes. Combination therapy approaches include palliative therapies (e.g., chest physiotherapy) along with treatments that address the underlying disease pathology (e.g. miglustat or future gene therapies).

Keywords: Disaccharidase; Ganglioside; Gangliosidosis; Ketogenic diet; Miglustat; Substrate.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • 1-Deoxynojirimycin / adverse effects
  • 1-Deoxynojirimycin / analogs & derivatives
  • 1-Deoxynojirimycin / therapeutic use
  • Diet, Ketogenic
  • Disaccharidases / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Female
  • Gangliosidoses / complications
  • Gangliosidoses / physiopathology*
  • Gangliosidoses / therapy*
  • Gangliosidoses, GM2 / physiopathology*
  • Gangliosidoses, GM2 / therapy
  • Gangliosidosis, GM1 / physiopathology*
  • Gangliosidosis, GM1 / therapy
  • Glycoside Hydrolase Inhibitors / adverse effects
  • Glycoside Hydrolase Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Prospective Studies
  • Retrospective Studies


  • Glycoside Hydrolase Inhibitors
  • 1-Deoxynojirimycin
  • miglustat
  • Disaccharidases