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Immunol Cell Biol. 2009 Oct;87(7):514-24. doi: 10.1038/icb.2009.42. Epub 2009 Jun 16.

Glucocerebroside: an evolutionary advantage for patients with Gaucher disease and a new immunomodulatory agent.

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  • 1Internal Medicine/Liver Unit, Department of Medicine, Hadassah-Hebrew University Medical Center, Jerusalem, Israel.


Gaucher disease (GD) is caused by the reduced activity of a lysosomal enzyme, glucocerebrosidase, leading to the accumulation of glucocerebroside (GC). The relatively high prevalence of this disease within an ethnic group is believed to reflect a selective advantage. Treatment with enzyme replacement therapy (ERT) is safe and effective in ameliorating the primary symptoms of the disease, yet there have been reports that some patients on ERT have developed type 2 diabetes or metabolic syndrome, malignancies and central nervous system disorders. A series of animal studies suggest that these complications may be related to the reduction of GC levels by the enzyme administered. GC has been shown to have an immunomodulatory effect through the promotion of dendritic cells, natural killer T cells, and regulatory T cells. The break down of GC to ceramide can underline part of these findings. Clinical trials suggested a beneficial effect of GC in type 2 diabetes or nonalcoholic steatohepatitis. This review of the data from animal models and humans proposes that the increased level of GC may provide an evolutionary advantage for patients with GD. Indirectly, these data support treating symptomatic patients with mild/moderate GD with low-dose ERT and re-evaluating the use of ERT in asymptomatic patients.

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