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Annu Rev Biochem. 2011;80:1-15. doi: 10.1146/annurev.biochem.031209.093756.

From serendipity to therapy.

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  • 1Department of Biological Chemistry, David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles, California 90095-1737, USA.


My postdoctoral training in the biosynthesis of plant polysaccharides at the University of California, Berkeley, led me, rather improbably, to study mucopolysaccharide storage disorders in the intramural program of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). I have traced the path from studies of mucopolysaccharide turnover in cultured cells to the development of therapy for patients. The key experiment started as an accident, i.e., the mixing of cells of different genotypes, resulting in correction of their biochemical defect. This serendipitous experiment led to identification of the enzyme deficiencies in the Hurler and Hunter syndromes, to an understanding of the biochemistry of lysosomal enzymes in general, and to the cell biology of receptor-mediated endocytosis and targeting to lysosomes. It paved the way for the development of enzyme replacement therapy with recombinant enzymes. I have also included studies performed after I moved to the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), including a recent unexpected finding in a neurodegenerative mucopolysaccharide storage disease, the Sanfilippo syndrome, with implications for therapy.

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