Oral bile acid treatment and the patient with zellweger syndrome

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Abstract

The cerebrohepatorenal syndrome of Zellweger is a congenital syndrome of multiple manifestations, including hepatomegaly and liver dysfunction. Treatment is generally of a supportive nature, aimed at improving nutrition and growth, controlling the central nervous system symptoms and limiting progression of liver disease. Because the liver disease in Zellweger syndrome may be attributed to an overproduction and accumulation of cholestanoic acids, exacerbated by diminished primary bile acid synthesis, we hypothesized that primary bile acid administration would be beneficial in improving liver function by a mechanism involving down-regulation in the synthesis of these atypical bile acids. We report here the clinical and biochemical responses to primary bile acid administration in a 2-mo-old boy who was seen with the typical signs of Zellweger syndrome. Liver disease was evident from hepatomegaly and elevated serum liver enzymes and bilirubin. The diagnosis was supported by markedly elevated serum very long chain fatty acids and the bile acids dihydroxycholestanoic acid and trihydroxycholestanoic acid. Confirmation of the lack of peroxisomes was established by electron microscopy. When the patient was 6 mo old, the primary bile acids cholic acid and chenodeoxycholic acid, (100 mg each/day) were administered orally. A significant improvement in biochemical indices of liver function occurred with a normalization of the serum bilirubin and liver enzymes and a histological improvement in the extent of inflammation and bile duct proliferation and disappearance of cannalicular plugs. Serum and urinary cholestanoic acids showed a significant decrease within a few days. A striking and sustained increase in growth was observed after therapy, and an improvement in neurological symptoms was noted. In conclusion, this study indicates that primary bile acid therapy improves liver function and growth in the patient with peroxisomal dysfunction and should be considered in the supportive therapies for this condition. (Hepatology 1992;15:198-207).

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