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Gaucher disease type 3

Synonym(s) Cerebral juvenile and adult form of Gaucher disease
Chronic neuronopathic Gaucher disease
Gaucher disease, subacute neuronopathic type
Prevalence <1 / 1 000 000
Inheritance Autosomal recessive
Age of onset All ages
  • E75.2
  • C0268251
MeSH -
MedDRA -


Disease definition

Gaucher disease type 3 is the subacute neurological form of Gaucher disease (GD; see this term) characterized by progressive encephalopathy and associated with the systemic manifestations (organomegaly, bone involvement, cytopenia) of GD type 1 (see this term).


The annual incidence of GD is about 1/60,000 and the prevalence is approximately 1/100,000. GD type 3 accounts for 5% of all patients with GD.

Clinical description

The clinical presentation is very heterogeneous. Neurological disease appears in childhood or adolescence, a much later onset than in GD type 2 (see this term). Encephalopathy can be the presenting sign of the disease or may occur later in the disease course. Some patients have moderate systemic involvement associated with ophthalmoplegia as the only neurological symptom. For the more severe forms, the neurological signs encountered are variable: supranuclear horizontal ophthalmoplegia, progressive myoclonic epilepsy, cerebellar ataxia, spasticity and dementia. GD type 3 is also associated with the clinical and biological signs of ''systemic'' disease, such as frequent asthenia, growth retardation or delayed puberty, splenomegaly and hepatomegaly. Bone anomalies may also be present and manifest as deformations, osteopenia, which sometimes leads to pathological fractures or vertebral compression, bone infarctions or even aseptic osteonecrosis. Involvement of other organs (rarely symptomatic pulmonary, renal and cardiac) is less common. Pancytopenia is frequent and involves varying degrees of thrombocytopenia (sometimes severe), anemia and, less frequently, leukoneutropenia. Polyclonal hypergammaglobulinemia is often present and is sometimes complicated by monoclonal gammapathy.


GD type 3 is a lysosomal storage disease caused by a mutation in the GBA gene (1q21) that codes for the lysosomal enzyme, glucocerebrosidase. The deficiency in glucocerebrosidase leads to the accumulation of glucosylceramidase (or beta-glucocerebrosidase) deposits in the cells of the reticuloendothelial system of the liver, spleen and the bone marrow (Gaucher cells).

Diagnostic methods

Diagnostic methods involve ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) for initial evaluation and subsequent monitoring of hepatosplenomegaly, radiography and bone scintigraphy to detect bone lesions and complications, osteodensitometry for the evaluation of osteopenia of the lumbar spine and femoral neck, and cardiac ultrasound for the detection of pulmonary arterial hypertension. An increase in certain biological markers that are important both for the initial diagnosis and monitoring with or without treatment, is also observed: chitotriosidase, an angiotensin converting enzyme, ferritin and tartrate-resistant acid phosphatases. Diagnosis can be confirmed by demonstrating a deficit in the enzymatic activity of glucocerebrosidase in circulating leukocytes. In rare cases, genotyping may be of prognostic value: a patient with a homozygous L444P mutation in the GBA gene has a very high risk of developing neurological disease.

Genetic counseling

Transmission is autosomal recessive.

Management and treatment

The treatment for patients with GD type 3 exhibiting clinically significant non neurological manifestations is enzyme substitution therapy (imiglucerase with marketing authorization (MA) since 1997). It appears to slow progression of the neurological symptoms and is effective against the systemic manifestations.


In the absence of treatment, clinical progression leads to death within a few years.

Expert reviewer(s)

  • Dr Nadia BELMATOUG
  • Dr Jérôme STIRNEMANN

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