Mitochondrial neurogastrointestinal encephalomyopathy (MNGIE) is an autosomal recessive disorder caused by mutations in the gene encoding thymidine phosphorylase (TP). Allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) has been proposed as a treatment for patients with MNGIE and a standardized approach to HSCT in this condition has recently been developed. We report on the transplant course, management and short-term follow-up in two MNGIE patients who underwent HSCT. The source of stem cells was bone marrow taken from an HLA 9/10 allele-matched unrelated donor in the first patient and from an HLA 10/10 allele-matched sibling donor in the second. Both patients achieved full donor chimerism, and we observed restoration of buffy coat TP activity and lowered urine nucleoside concentrations in both of them. The post-transplant clinical follow-up showed improvement in gastrointestinal dysmotility, abdominal cramps and diarrhea. Neurological assessment remained unchanged. However, the first patient died 15 months after HSCT due to gastrointestinal obstruction and shock; the second patient died 8 months after the procedure due to respiratory distress following septic shock. Although HSCT corrects biochemical abnormalities and improves gastrointestinal symptoms, the procedure can be risky in subjects already in poor medical condition as are many MNGIE patients. Since transplant-related morbidity and mortality increases with progression of the disease and number of comorbidities, MNGIE patients should be submitted to HSCT when they are still relatively healthy, in order to minimize the complications of the procedure. Anyway, there is still incomplete knowledge on the natural history of the disease in many affected patients and it is not yet clear when the best time to do a transplant is. Further clues to the therapeutic potential of HSCT could result from a prolonged observation in a greater number of non-transplanted and transplanted patients, which would allow us to answer the questions of if, how and when MNGIE patients require HSCT treatment.
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