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

Student Author(s)

Seemin Seher Ahmed

Academic Program

Interdisciplinary Graduate Program

UMMS Affiliation

Gene Therapy Center; Department of Microbiology and Physiological Systems

Publication Date


Document Type



Genetics and Genomics | Nervous System Diseases | Therapeutics


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.

DOI of Published Version



JIMD Rep. 2015;19:11-22. doi: 10.1007/8904_2014_356. Epub 2015 Jan 21. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

JIMD reports

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Link to Article in PubMed

PubMed ID