New York, NY - April 9, 2001 - A vitamin-like substance may bring new hope for some patients with a family of uncommon disorders known as hereditary ataxias - brain-and-muscle dysfunctions that disrupt balance and coordination of the arms, legs, and speech.
Six patients with hereditary ataxia improved greatly after taking a substance called coenzyme Q10, or CoQ10, Columbia researchers report. Once wheelchair-bound patients walked again with some assistance, and a woman was able to work outside her home for the first time.
The research, published in the April issue of the journal Neurology, was led by Dr. Salvatore DiMauro, M.D., Lucy G. Moses Professor of Neurology at Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons, with participation from North Shore University Hospital, Manhasset, N.Y.; Emory University, Atlanta, Ga.; Children's Hospital of Columbus, Ohio; and Ohio State University.
Dr. DiMauro and his colleagues found that several patients with unexplained forms of hereditary ataxias had severe deficiencies of CoQ10.
CoQ10, also called ubiquinone, is a natural component of the system by which the cells of the body draw energy from oxygen. This explains the weakness and lack of coordination present in many patients.
"We decided to try giving these people CoQ10," Dr. DiMauro said, and "their physical therapist saw a response that was so dramatic that she increased the dose very high. These patients really improved."
One 17-year-old girl came from India for diagnosis and treatment, and she is now able to work outside her home for the first time in her life, in a computer store in New York, Dr. DiMauro said.
A panel of Columbia researchers watched videotapes of three siblings taken at several points before and after receiving the therapies. The researchers agreed that their improvements were too dramatic to be explained by a placebo effect.