Effects of long-term cysteamine treatment in patients with cystinosis

Pediatr Nephrol. 2019 Apr;34(4):571-578. doi: 10.1007/s00467-017-3856-4. Epub 2017 Dec 19.


Cystinosis is a rare autosomal-recessive lysosomal storage disease with high morbidity and mortality. It is caused by mutations in the CTNS gene that encodes the cystine transporter, cystinosin, which leads to lysosomal cystine accumulation. Patients with infantile nephropathic cystinosis, the most common and most severe clinical form of cystinosis, commonly present with renal Fanconi syndrome by 6-12 months of age, and without specific treatment, almost all will develop end-stage renal disease (ESRD) by 10-12 years of age. Early corneal cystine crystal deposition is a hallmark of the disease. Cystinosis also presents with gastrointestinal symptoms (e.g., vomiting, decreased appetite, and feeding difficulties) and severe growth retardation and may affect several other organs over time, including the eye, thyroid gland, gonads, pancreas, muscles, bone marrow, liver, nervous system, lungs, and bones. Cystine-depleting therapy with cysteamine orally is the only specific targeted therapy available for managing cystinosis and needs to be combined with cysteamine eye drops for corneal disease involvement. In patients with early treatment initiation and good compliance to therapy, long-term cysteamine treatment delays progression to ESRD, significantly improves growth, decreases the frequency and severity of extrarenal complications, and is associated with extended life expectancy. Therefore, early diagnosis of cystinosis and adequate life-long treatment with cysteamine are essential for preventing end-organ damage and improving the overall prognosis in these patients.

Keywords: CTNS gene mutations; Cystine-depleting therapy; End-stage renal disease; Extrarenal complications; Lysosomal cystine accumulation; Renal Fanconi syndrome.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Transport Systems, Neutral / genetics
  • Cysteamine / administration & dosage*
  • Cysteamine / adverse effects
  • Cystine Depleting Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Cystine Depleting Agents / adverse effects
  • Cystinosis / complications
  • Cystinosis / diagnosis
  • Cystinosis / drug therapy*
  • Cystinosis / genetics
  • Disease Progression
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Humans
  • Mutation
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Amino Acid Transport Systems, Neutral
  • CTNS protein, human
  • Cystine Depleting Agents
  • Cysteamine