The inherited pediatric leukodystrophy Canavan disease is characterized by dysmyelination and severe spongiform degeneration, and is currently refractory to treatment. A definitive understanding of core disease mechanisms is lacking, but pathology is believed to result at least in part compromised fatty acid synthesis during myelination. Recent evidence generated in an animal model suggests that the breakdown of N-acetylaspartate metabolism in CD results in a heightened coupling of fatty acid synthesis to oligodendrocyte oxidative metabolism during the early stages of myelination, thereby causing acute oxidative stress. We present here the results of a dietary intervention designed to support oxidative integrity during developmental myelination in the nur7 mouse model of Canavan disease. Provision of the odd carbon triglyceride triheptanoin to neonatal nur7 mice reduced oxidative stress, promoted long-term oligodendrocyte survival, and increased myelin in the brain. Improvements in oligodendrocyte survival and myelination were associated with a highly significant reduction in spongiform degeneration and improved motor function in triheptanoin treated mice. Initiation of triheptanoin treatment in older animals resulted in markedly more modest effects on these same pathological indices, indicating a window of therapeutic intervention that corresponds with developmental myelination. These results support the targeting of oxidative integrity at early stages of Canavan disease, and provide a foundation for the clinical development of a non-invasive dietary triheptanoin treatment regimen.
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