The mucolipidoses (ML) are a group of inherited metabolic diseases that affect the body’s ability to carry out the normal turnover of various materials within cells. In ML, abnormal amounts of carbohydrates and fatty materials (lipids) accumulate in cells. Because our cells are not able to handle such large amounts of these substances, damage to the cells occurs, causing symptoms that range from mild learning disabilities to severe intellectual impairment and skeletal deformities. The group includes four diseases:Mucolipidosis I (sialidosis)Mucolipidosis II (inclusion-cell, or I-cell, disease)Mucolipidosis III (pseudo-Hurler polydystrophy)Mucolipidosis IVThe MLs are classified as lysosomal storage diseases because they involve increased storage of substances in the lysosomes, which are specialized sac-like components within most cells. Patients with ML are born with a genetic defect in which their bodies either do not produce enough enzymes or, in some instances, produce ineffective forms of enzymes. Without functioning enzymes, lysosomes cannot break down carbohydrates and lipids and transport them to their normal destination. The molecules then accumulate in the cells of various tissues in the body, leading to swelling and damage of organs.The mucolipidoses occur only when a child inherits two copies of the defective gene, one from each parent. When both parents carry a defective gene, each of their children faces a one in four chance of developing one of the MLs.


No cures or specific therapies for ML currently exists.  Therapies are generally geared toward treating symptoms and providing supportive care to the child.  For individuals with corneal clouding, surgery to remove the thin layer over the eye has been shown to reduce the cloudiness in the eye.  However, this improvement may be only temporary.   Physical and occupational therapy may help children with motor delays.  Children with language delays may benefit from speech therapy.    Children at risk for failure to thrive (growth failure) may need nutritional supplements, especially iron and vitamin B12 for patients with ML IV.  Respiratory infections should be treated immediately and fully with antibiotics.


Symptoms of ML can be congenital (present at birth) or begin in early childhood or adolescence. Early symptoms can include skeletal abnormalities, vision problems and developmental delays. Over time, many children with ML develop poor mental capacities, have difficulty reaching normal developmental milestones, and, in many cases, eventually die of the disease.


Discovery of the ML genes is enabling NINDS researchers to study the genes' function and will facilitate studies on drugs that may lead to effective treatments. In addition, investigators at grantee institutions are conducting studies on an animal model, Caenorhabditis elegans, which is frequently used to determine the effects of genetic mutations. Other grantees are using the fruit fly model, Drosophila, to study a mutation in the ML IV gene. And one of the research teams involved in the discovery of the ML IV gene is conducting further genetic studies to explore the normal and abnormal functions of the ML IV gene. Through these and other research efforts, scientists are optimistic that they will one day discover treatments or even prevention strategies for the MLs.


Mucolipidosis IV (ML4) Foundation
Funds, promotes, and supports medical research dedicated to developing treatments and a cure for ML4, which causes mental retardation, motor delays, retinal degeneration, and limited lifespan.

3500 Piedmont Road, Suite 500
Atlanta, GA 30305
Tel: Atlanta

National MPS Society, Inc.
Dedicated to finding cures for mucopolysaccharidosis (MPS) and related diseases. Provides hope and support for affected individuals and their families by sponsoring research, advocacy, and awareness programs.

PO Box 14686
Durham, NC 27709-4686
Tel: Durham
Fax: 919-806-2055

National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD)
Federation of voluntary health organizations dedicated to helping people with rare "orphan" diseases and assisting the organizations that serve them. Committed to the identification, treatment, and cure of rare disorders through programs of education, advocacy, research, and service.

55 Kenosia Avenue
Danbury, CT 06810
Tel: Danbury
Fax: 203-798-2291

National Tay-Sachs and Allied Diseases Association
The mission of the National Tay-Sachs & Allied Diseases Association is to lead the fight to treat and cure Tay-Sachs, Canavan and related genetic diseases and to support affected families and individuals in leading fuller lives.

2001 Beacon Street
Suite 204
Boston, MA 02135
Tel: Boston
Fax: 617-277-0134

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NINDS Disorders is an index of neurological conditions provided by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. This valuable tool offers detailed descriptions, facts on treatment and prognosis, and patient organization contact information for over 500 identified neurological disorders.

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