Cells (Feb 2022)

Central Nervous System Complications in Cystinosis: The Role of Neuroimaging

  • Aude Servais,
  • Jennifer Boisgontier,
  • Ana Saitovitch,
  • Aurélie Hummel,
  • Nathalie Boddaert

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 11, no. 4
p. 682


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Despite improvement in the specific treatment, clinical and anatomo-functional central nervous system (CNS) abnormalities of various severities are still observed in cystinosis patients. Patients who develop CNS complications today have a worse compliance to cysteamine treatment. Radiological studies have shown that cortical or central (ventriculomegaly) atrophy is observed in more than two thirds of cystinosis patients’ magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and correlates with the intelligence quotient score. Half of cystinosis patients have marked aspecific white matter hyperintensities. The development of advanced neuroimaging techniques provides new tools to further investigate CNS complications. A recent neuroimaging study using a voxel-based morphometry approach showed that cystinosis patients present a decreased grey matter volume in the left middle frontal gyrus. Diffusion tensor imaging studies have shown white matter microstructure abnormalities in children and adults with cystinosis, respectively in areas of the dorsal visual pathway and within the corpus callosum’s body. Finally, leucocyte cystine levels are associated with decreased resting cerebral blood flow, measured by arterial spin labelling, in the frontal cortex, which could be associated with the neurocognitive deficits described in these patients. These results reinforce the relevance of neuroimaging studies to further understand the mechanisms that underline CNS impairments.