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T2 weighted axial scan at the level of the caudate heads demonstrates marked loss of posterior white matter, with reduced volume and increased signal intensity. The anterior white matter is spared. Features are consistent with X-linked adrenoleukodystrophy.
Classification and external resources
ICD-10 E75.2
ICD-9 330.0
DiseasesDB 32504

Leukodystrophy is group of disorders characterized by degeneration of the white matter in the brain.[1] The leukodystrophies are caused by imperfect growth or development of the myelin sheath, the fatty covering that acts as an insulator around nerve fibers. Myelin in the central nervous system (CNS) is produced by oligodendrocytes.[2] When damage occurs to white matter, immune responses can lead to inflammation in the CNS, along with loss of myelin.

The word leukodystrophy comes from the Greek roots leuko, white, dys, lack of, and troph, growth. Thus leukodystrophy describes a set of diseases that affect the growth or maintenance of the white matter.


Specific leukodystrophies include (ICD-10 codes are provided where available):

xenobefantosis (G70.3)


Leukodystrophies are mostly inherited disorders. They may be inherited in a recessive, dominant, or X-linked manner, depending on the type of leukodystrophy. The individual articles on each leukodystrophy will describe the particular pattern of inheritance for that disease. There is also a fact sheet describing the different genetic inheritance patterns available from the United Leukodystrophy Foundation.[3]

There are some leukodystrophies that do not appear to be inherited, but rather arise spontaneously. They are still caused by a mutation in a particular gene, but it means that the mutation was not inherited.

Known aggravators of leukodystrophy symptoms include radiation and certain chemotherapeutic treatments for cancer.


Clinical features[edit]

The most common symptom of a leukodystrophy disease is a gradual decline in an infant or child who previously appeared well. Progressive loss may appear in body tone, movements, gait, speech, ability to eat, vision, hearing and behaviour. There is often a slowdown in mental and physical development (though full, lasting cognizance has been observed, most notably in the case of Hunter Kelly, see 'Public Awareness'). Symptoms vary between specific types of leukodystrophy, as well as between individual patients, and may be difficult to recognise in the early stages of the disease.




Current research[edit]

One source of active (as of 2006) research is The Myelin Project. In addition, many research groups are studying the cellular processes of myelination, which may provide insights into leukodystrophy. Researchers in New York have successfully cured leukodystrophy in mice, using skin cells to repair damaged myelin sheaths. Researchers hypothesize that this treatment may possibly be used in curing human multiple sclerosis.[5]

Public awareness[edit]

Jill Kelly and her husband, NFL quarterback Jim Kelly, founded Hunter's Hope after their son Hunter (1997-2005) was diagnosed with infantile Krabbe leukodystrophy.[6]

Matthew and Michael Clark of Hull, UK are current sufferers. Their story was the subject of the Channel 4 documentary The Curious Case of the Clark Brothers.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Sachdev, Perminder S.; Keshavan, Matcheri S. (2010-03-15). Secondary Schizophrenia. Cambridge University Press. pp. 241–. ISBN 978-0-521-85697-3. Retrieved 15 August 2011. 
  2. ^ http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1467598/pdf/joa_1902_0161.pdf
  3. ^ "United Leukodystrophy Foundation". Retrieved 2012-11-26. 
  4. ^ Krivit, William; Shapiro, Elsa G.; Peters, Charles; Wagner, John E.; Cornu, Guy; Kurtzberg, Joanne; Wenger, David A.; Kolodny, Edwin H.; Vanier, Marie T.; Loes, Daniel J.; Dusenbery, Kathryn; Lockman, Lawrence A. (16 April 1998). "Hematopoietic Stem-Cell Transplantation in Globoid-Cell Leukodystrophy". New England Journal of Medicine 338 (16): 1119–1127. doi:10.1056/NEJM199804163381605. 
  5. ^ "Human Skin Cells Used to Create Stem Cells, Treat Brain Disease in Mice". DailyTech. 8 February 2013. Retrieved 9 February 2013. 
  6. ^ Staff report (October 25, 2012). Game show winners donate portion to Hunter’s Hope. Buffalo News
  7. ^ "The Curious Case of the Clark Brothers". Retrieved 2012-11-26. 

External links[edit]