Cerebrotendinous xanthomatosis, sitosterolemia, Smith-Lemli-Opitz syndrome and the seminal contributions of Gerald Salen, MD (1935-2020)

J Clin Lipidol. 2021 Jul-Aug;15(4):540-544. doi: 10.1016/j.jacl.2021.05.004. Epub 2021 May 28.


Cerebrotendinous xanthomatosis (CTX), sitosterolemia, and Smith-Lemli Opitz syndrome (SLOS) are rare inborn errors of metabolism. The diagnoses of CTX and sitosterolemia are often delayed for many years because of lack of physician awareness, often resulting in significant and unnecessary progression of disease. CTX may present with chronic diarrhea, juvenile onset cataracts, strikingly large xanthomas, and neurologic disease in the setting of a normal serum cholesterol, but markedly elevated serum or plasma cholestanol levels. These patients have a defect in producing the bile acid chenodoxycholate, and oral chenodeoxycholate therapy is essential for these patients in order to prevent neurologic complications. Sitosterolemia can present with xanthomas, anemia, thrombocytopenia, splenomegaly, very premature heart disease, and serum cholesterol levels that may be normal or elevated, along with marked elevations of plasma β-sitosterol. These patients have a defect causing overabsorption of β-sitosterol, and the treatment of choice is oral ezetimibe. SLOS presents with growth delay, intellectual disability, multiple structural anomalies, and low serum cholesterol levels, and the defect is reduced cholesterol production. Treatment consists of dietary cholesterol supplementation and oral bile acid therapy which raises serum cholesterol levels and may improve symptoms. The metabolic and genetic defects in these disorders have been defined. There is no one in our field that has contributed more to the diagnosis and treatment of these disorders than Gerald Salen, MD, who died in late 2020 at 85 years of age. He will be greatly missed by his family, friends, and colleagues from around the world.

Keywords: 7-Dehydrocholesterol; Cerebrotendinous xanthomatosis; Chenodeoxycholate; Cholestanol; Ezetimibe; Gerald Salen; Sitosterolemia; Smith-Lemli-Opitz syndrome; β-Sitosterol.

Publication types

  • Biography
  • Historical Article
  • Portrait
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • History, 20th Century
  • History, 21st Century
  • Humans
  • Hypercholesterolemia / history*
  • Intestinal Diseases / history*
  • Lipid Metabolism, Inborn Errors / history*
  • Male
  • Physicians / history*
  • Phytosterols / adverse effects*
  • Phytosterols / history
  • Smith-Lemli-Opitz Syndrome / history*
  • Xanthomatosis, Cerebrotendinous / history*


  • Phytosterols

Supplementary concepts

  • Sitosterolemia

Personal name as subject

  • Gerald Salen