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Tay-Sachs Disease

Future Prospects

In the 1990s laboratories in the United States, Canada, and France developed mouse models of Tay-Sachs disease, Sandhoff disease and GM2 activator deficiency. These investigations led to a much better understanding of the brain pathology and progression of the diseases. A significant outcome has been the use of the mouse models to experiment with approaches to therapy. A promising approach is based on partially blocking the synthesis of gangliosides with drugs so that accumulation of GM2 ganglioside becomes minimal. In addition to "substrate deprivation," as this blocking action is called, other laboratories are trying gene therapy and drug-based methods for bypassing the Tay-Sachs defect. The combination of carrier testing and prenatal diagnosis to assure the birth of healthy babies, and the more recent prospects for treating affected patients are major advances since the discovery of a cherry-red spot described in the first infant known to have been born with Tay-Sachs disease.

Roy A. Gravel


Gravel, Roy A., et al. "The GM2 Gangliosidoses." In The Metabolic and Molecular Bases of Inherited Diseases, 8th ed., Charles R. Scriver, Arthur L. Beaudet, William S. Sly and David Valle, eds. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2001.

Internet Resources

"HEXA Locus Database." <http://data.mch.mcgill.ca/gm2-gangliosidoses>.

"Tay-Sachs Disease." National Center for Biotechnology Information, Division of Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov:80/entrez/dispomim.cgi?id=272800>.

Additional topics

Medicine EncyclopediaGenetics in Medicine - Part 4Tay-Sachs Disease - History And Disease Description, Molecular Biology: Understanding Tay-sachs Disease, Mutations And Founder Effect