Folate receptor α deficiency – Myelin-sensitive MRI as a reliable biomarker to monitor the efficacy and long-term outcome of a new therapeutic approach


Dreha-Kulaczewski S, Sahoo P, Preusse M, Gkalimani I, Dechent P, Helms G, Hofer S, Steinfeld R, Gärtner J


Journal of Inherited Metabolic Disease


J Inherit Metab Dis. 2024 Mar;47(2):387-403.


Cerebral folate transport deficiency, caused by a genetic defect in folate receptor α, is a devastating neurometabolic disorder that, if untreated, leads to epileptic encephalopathy, psychomotor decline and hypomyelination. Currently, there are limited data on effective dosage and duration of treatment, though early diagnosis and therapy with folinic acid appears critical. The aim of this long-term study was to identify new therapeutic approaches and novel biomarkers for assessing efficacy, focusing on myelin-sensitive MRI. Clinical, biochemical, structural and quantitative MRI parameters of seven patients with genetically confirmed folate receptor α deficiency were acquired over 13 years. Multimodal MRI approaches comprised MR-spectroscopy (MRS), magnetization transfer (MTI) and diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) sequences. Patients started oral treatment immediately following diagnosis or in an interval of up to 2.5 years. Escalation to intravenous and intrathecal administration was performed in the absence of effects. Five patients improved, one with a presymptomatic start of therapy remained symptom-free, and one with inconsistent treatment deteriorated. While CSF 5-methyltetrahydrofolate and MRS parameters normalized immediately after therapy initiation, myelin-sensitive MTI and DTI measures correlated with gradual clinical improvement and ongoing myelination under therapy. Early initiation of treatment at sufficient doses, considering early intrathecal applications, is critical for favorable outcome. The majority of patients showed clinical improvements that correlated best with MTI parameters, allowing individualized monitoring of myelination recovery. Presymptomatic therapy seems to ensure normal development and warrants newborn screening. Furthermore, the quantitative parameters of myelin-sensitive MRI for therapy assessments can now be used for hypomyelination disorders in general.


Pubmed Link