Childhood disorders of neurodegeneration with brain iron accumulation (NBIA)

Manju A Kurian, Alasdair McNeill, Jean-Pierre Lin, Eamonn R Maher
Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology 2011, 53 (5): 394-404
Neurodegeneration with brain iron accumulation (NBIA) comprises a heterogeneous group of progressive complex motor disorders characterized by the presence of high brain iron, particularly within the basal ganglia. A number of autosomal recessive NBIA syndromes can present in childhood, most commonly pantothenate kinase-associated neurodegeneration (PKAN; due to mutations in the PANK2 gene) and phospholipase A2 group 6-associated neurodegeneration (PLAN; associated with genetic defects in PLA2G6). Mutations in the genes that cause these two neuroaxonal dystrophies are thought to disrupt the normal cellular functions of phospholipid remodelling and fatty acid metabolism. A significant proportion of children with an NBIA phenotype have no genetic diagnosis and there are, no doubt, additional as yet undiscovered genes that account for a number of these cases. NBIA disorders can be diagnostically challenging as there is often phenotypic overlap between the different disease entities. This review aims to define the clinical, radiological, and genetic features of such disorders, providing the clinician with a stepwise approach to appropriate neurological and genetic investigation, as well as a clinical management strategy for these neurodegenerative syndromes.

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