The Changing Face of Adrenoleukodystrophy

Endocr Rev. 2020 Aug 1;41(4):577-593. doi: 10.1210/endrev/bnaa013.


Adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD) is a rare X-linked disorder of peroxisomal oxidation due to mutations in ABCD1. It is a progressive condition with a variable clinical spectrum that includes primary adrenal insufficiency, myelopathy, and cerebral ALD. Adrenal insufficiency affects over 80% of ALD patients. Cerebral ALD affects one-third of boys under the age of 12 and progresses to total disability and death without treatment. Hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) remains the only disease-modifying therapy if completed in the early stages of cerebral ALD, but it does not affect the course of adrenal insufficiency. It has significant associated morbidity and mortality. A recent gene therapy clinical trial for ALD reported short-term MRI and neurological outcomes comparable to historical patients treated with HSCT without the associated adverse side effects. In addition, over a dozen states have started newborn screening (NBS) for ALD, with the number of states expecting to double in 2020. Genetic testing of NBS-positive neonates has identified novel variants of unknown significance, providing further opportunity for genetic characterization but also uncertainty in the monitoring and therapy of subclinical and/or mild adrenal insufficiency or cerebral involvement. As more individuals with ALD are identified at birth, it remains uncertain if availability of matched donors, transplant (and, potentially, gene therapy) centers, and specialists may affect the timely treatment of these individuals. As these promising gene therapy trials and NBS transform the clinical management and outcomes of ALD, there will be an increasing need for the endocrine management of presymptomatic and subclinical adrenal insufficiency. (Endocrine Reviews 41: 1 - 17, 2020).

Keywords: adrenoleukodystrophy; gene therapy; hematopoietic stem cell transplant; newborn screening.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Insufficiency
  • Adrenoleukodystrophy / diagnosis*
  • Adrenoleukodystrophy / therapy*
  • Genetic Testing*
  • Genetic Therapy*
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Neonatal Screening*