Alexander disease (AxD) is a rare neurodegenerative disorder that is caused by dominant mutations in the gene encoding glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP), an intermediate filament that is primarily expressed by astrocytes. In AxD, mutant GFAP in combination with increased GFAP expression result in astrocyte dysfunction and the accumulation of Rosenthal fibers.
Alexander disease results from gain of function mutations in the gene encoding glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP). At least eight GFAP isoforms have been described, however, the predominant alpha isoform accounts for approximately 90% of GFAP protein.
After more than a decade of work, researchers at the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s Waisman Center reported promising results in the lab and in animal models that could set the stage for developing a treatment for Alexander disease, a rare and usually fatal neurological disease with no known cure.
Alexander disease is a devastating brain disease that almost nobody has heard of — unless someone in the family is afflicted with it. Alexander disease strikes young or old, and in children destroys white matter in the front of the brain. Many patients, especially those with early onset, have significant intellectual disabilities.