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Lipid Storage Diseases


Lipid storage diseases are a group of inherited metabolic disorders in which harmful amounts of fatty materials (lipids) accumulate in various tissues and cells in the body.  Lipids are important parts of the myelin sheath that coats and protects the nerves.  Over time, this excessive storage of fats can cause permanent damage to cells and tissues in the brain and peripheral nervous system, and in other parts of the body.  Symptoms may appear early in life or develop in the teen or even adult years.  Neurological complications of the lipid storage diseases may include:

  • lack of muscle coordination,
  • brain degeneration,
  • seizures,
  • loss of muscle tone,
  • learning problems,
  • spasticity,
  • feeding and swallowing difficulties,
  • slurred speech,
  • increased sensitivity to touch,
  • pain in the arms and legs, and
  • clouding of the cornea.


Currently there is no specific treatment available for most of the lipid storage diseases. Enzyme replacement therapy is available for Gaucher and Fabry diseases. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved migalastat (Galafold) as an oral drug to treat adults with Fabry disease who have a certain genetic mutation. Antiplatelet drugs used to treat stroke can slow the decline of kidney function seen in Fabry disease.  Medications may be prescribed to help treat pain.


The prognosis for a lipid storage disorder is determined by the type of disease, the age of onset, and the severity of symptoms.  Children treated for some forms of Gaucher disease may live well into adulthood, while children with Niemann-Pick disease often die at a young age from infection or progressive neurological loss.  Children with Fabry disease often die prematurely of complications from heart disease, renal failure, or stroke.  Most children with Farber’s disease die by age 2, usually from lung disease.  Children with Tay-Sachs and Sandhoff diseases often die at an early age from recurring or respiratory infection.


The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) has made significant contributions to research on lipid storage diseases and their treatment. NINDS researchers were responsible for developing effective enzyme replacement therapies for Gaucher and Fabry diseases. NINDS-funded scientists continue to study how lipids accumulate in cells and why they cause harm to the body. Researchers hope to develop new treatments, including gene- and cell-based therapies. The NINDS, along with other Institutes and Centers of the National Institutes of Health, supports the Lysosomal Disease Network, a network of centers that address some of the major challenges in the diagnosis, management, and therapy of rare diseases, including the lipid storage diseases. Information from the National Library of Medicine’s MedlinePlusMetabolic Disorders

Ara Parseghian Medical Research Foundation [For Niemann-Pick Type C Disease]

3530 East Campo Abierto
Suite 105
Tucson, AZ 85718-3327

Website: http://www.parseghian.org
Phone: 520-577-5106
Fax: 520-577-5212

Funds research projects that will lead to a treatment for Niemann-Pick Type C and other pediatric neurological diseases and cholesterol metabolism disorders.

Children's Gaucher Research Fund

P.O. Box 2123
Granite Bay, CA 95746-2123

Website: http://www.childrensgaucher.org
Phone: 916-797-3700
Fax: 916-797-3707

Grassroots non-profit organization that supports research efforts on Types 2 and 3 Gaucher disease.

Hide and Seek Foundation for Lysosomal Storage Disease Research/SOAR

6475 East Pacific Coast Highway
Suite 466
Long Beach, CA 90803

Website: https://hideandseek.org/
Phone: 844-762-7672
Fax: 818-762-2502

Nonprofit that raises awareness and supports research to find treatments and cures for lysosomal disorders.

ISMRD-International Advocate For Glycoprotein Storage Diseases

20880 Canyon View Drive
Saratoga, CA 95070

Website: http://www.ismrd.org
Phone: 734-449-1190
Fax: 734-449-9038

ISMRD-International Advocate For Glycoprotein Storage Diseases advocates for families worldwide affected by Glycoprotein & Related Storage Diseases by building partnerships with medicine, science and industry and by providing a network of support and information.

National Gaucher Foundation, Inc.

5410 Edson Lane, Suite 220
Rockville, MD 20852

Website: http://www.gaucherdisease.org
Phone: 800-504-3189
Fax: 770-934-2911

Funds research for a cure and alternative treatments for Gaucher Disease; provides education, financial, support and mentor programs and advocates for legislation affecting the Gaucher and rare disease community.

National Niemann-Pick Disease Foundation, Inc.

P.O. Box 49
Ft. Atkinson, WI 53538

Website: https://nnpdf.org
Phone: 920-563-0930; 877-CURE-NPC (287-3672)
Fax: 920-563-0931

International nonprofit organization made up of parents, medical and educational professionals, friends, relatives, and others.

Information sourced through CNF’s partnership with The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), US National Institutes of Health.