Making the White Matter Matters: Progress in Understanding Canavan’s Disease and Therapeutic Interventions Through Eight Decades

  • Seemin S. Ahmed
  • Guangping GaoEmail author
Research Report
Part of the JIMD Reports book series (JIMD, volume 19)


Canavan’s disease (CD) is a fatal autosomal recessive pediatric leukodystrophy in which patients show severe neurodegeneration and typically die by the age of 10, though life expectancy in patients can be highly variable. Currently, there is no effective treatment for CD; however, gene therapy seems to be a feasible approach to combat the disease. Being a monogenic defect, the disease provides an excellent model system to develop gene therapy approaches that can be extended to other monogenic leukodystrophies and neurodegenerative diseases. CD results from mutations in a single gene aspartoacylase which hydrolyses N-acetyl aspartic acid (NAA) which accumulates in its absences. Since CD is one of the few diseases that show high NAA levels, it can also be used to study the enigmatic biological role of NAA. The disease was first described in 1931, and this review traces the progress made in the past 8 decades to understand the disease by enumerating current hypotheses and ongoing palliative measures to alleviate patient symptoms in the context of the latest advances in the field.


Palliative Measure rAAV Vector Protoplasmic Astrocyte Spastic Quadriplegia Spongy Degeneration 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We would like to acknowledge the grant support from Jacob’s Cure, NTSAD Foundation, Canavan Foundation, and Public Health Service grants 1R01NS076991, P01 HL59407-11, P01 AI100263-01 from National Institutes of Health to GG.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Massachusetts Medical SchoolWorcesterUSA

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