Batten disease is a rare, fatal, inherited disease of the nervous system (neurodegenerative disorder) that begins in childhood. Early symptoms of this disorder usually appear between the ages of 5 and 10, when parents or physicians may notice a previously normal child has begun to develop vision problems or seizures. In some cases the early signs are subtle, taking the form of personality and behavior changes, slow learning, clumsiness, or stumbling.Other symptoms or signs include slowing head growth in the infantile form, poor circulation in lower extremities with legs and feet, decreased body fat and muscle mass, curvature of the spine, hyperventilation and/or breath-holding spells, teeth grinding, and constipation. more...
Over time, affected children suffer mental impairment, worsening seizures, and progressive loss of sight and motor skills. Eventually, children with Batten disease become blind, bedridden, and demented. Batten disease is often fatal by the late teens or twenties.
Batten disease is named after the British pediatrician F. E. Batten who first described it in 1903. Also known as Spielmeyer-Vogt-Sjogren-Batten disease, it is the most common form of a group of disorders called Neuronal Ceroid Lipofuscinoses (or NCLs). Although Batten disease is usually regarded as the juvenile form of NCL, some physicians use the term Batten disease to describe all forms of NCL.
The disease is inherited in an autosomal recessive manner. The mutation causes the buildup of lipofuscins in the body's tissues. These substances consist of fats and proteins and form certain distinctive deposits that cause the symptoms and can be seen under an electron microscope. The diagnosis of Batten disease is based on the presence of these deposits in skin samples as well as other criteria. Six genes have now been identified that cause differenty types of Batten disease in children or adults. There are more that have yet to be identified. Two of these genes encode enzymes. The function of most of these geens is still unknown. The identification of these genes opens up the possibility of gene replacement therapy or other gene-related treatments.
In October 2005, the FDA approved the transplantation of fetal neuronal cells into the brains of children suffering from Infantile and Late Infantile versions of Batten disease. The cells, which are immature and in an early stage of development, are derived from aborted and miscarried fetuses and will be injected into the patient's brains. To avoid rejection of these foreign cells, the immune system of the patients has to be suppressed.
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