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J Cent Nerv Syst Dis. 2012 Apr 26;4:73-9. doi: 10.4137/JCNSD.S9355. Print 2012.

Vitamin k antagonist warfarin for palliative treatment of metachromatic leukodystrophy, a compassionate study of four subjects.

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Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.


MLD is characterized by accumulation of sulfatides in the brain. Vitamin K regulates two enzymes in sphingolipid biosynthesis and warfarin is known to lower brain sulfatides in rats and mice. We hypothesized that warfarin may mitigate the MLD phenotype by reducing the formation of sulfatides. This compassionate study recruited four advanced patients with clinical, biochemical and genetic confirmation of MLD. The patients were treated with warfarin according to the approved protocol for a total of 45 days. The battery of tests included proton MR spectroscopy (H-MRS) of brain and urinary sulfatide levels recorded at defined intervals. The patients tolerated the medication and there were no bleeding complications. The urinary sulfatide levels did not decline during the study period. The H-MRS showed decreased N-acetyl aspartate and elevated myoinositol levels in the basal ganglia which remained unchanged after treatment. Our study did not demonstrate any beneficial effects of warfarin in four advanced cases of MLD. The drug intervention however, was safe and deserves further evaluation through a larger study of longer duration. The metabolite abnormalities reported on H-MRS may be useful in longitudinal follow up of patients with MLD during drug trials.


MLD; sulfatide sphingolipids; vitamin K; warfarin

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