Tay-Sachs disease

Introduction

Tay-Sachs disease tā´-săks´ [key], rare hereditary disease caused by a genetic mutation that leaves the body unable to produce an enzyme necessary for fat metabolism in nerve cells, producing central nervous system degeneration. The disease is named for a British ophthalmologist, Warren Tay, who first described the disease, in 1881, and a New York neurologist, Bernard Sachs, who first described the cellular changes and the genetic nature of the disease, in 1887. In infants, it is characterized by progressive mental deterioration, blindness, paralysis, epileptic seizures, and death, usually between ages three and five. Late-onset Tay-Sachs occurs in persons who have a genetic mutation that is similar but allows some production of the missing enzyme. There is no treatment for Tay-Sachs.

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The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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