Patients and FamiliesLysosomal Disorders

ONE LABEL, many different diseases

Lysosomal disorders, sometimes called lysosomal storage disorders, are rare diseases caused by a mutation in a single gene. Because of this mutation, the gene fails to make or makes a defective version of, a specific protein that is needed for proper functioning of the lysosomes — important structures within cells that recycle cellular materials. When the lysosomes don’t function properly, toxic materials build up. This, in turn, causes problems for the cell, leading to tissue damage and debilitating symptoms affecting many parts of the body.

What are lysosomes?

Lysosomes are important organelles or structures, located inside the cell. They have multiple functions including the recycling of cellular materials. When lysosomes malfunction, recycling slows or halts, and otherwise harmless molecules build up to toxic levels. This accumulated material, known as substrate, can cause tissue and organ damage and related disease symptoms.


How do lysosomal disorders affect people living with these diseases?

There are about 50 lysosomal disorders. In each, a different type of molecule builds up in the lysosome, disrupting normal cell function.

The severity of a lysosomal disorder depends on which cells, tissues and organs accumulate the most toxic molecules.

  • Many lysosomal disorders affect the heart, kidney, spleen, liver and/or bones
  • About half of these disorders also affect the central nervous system, which includes the brain and the spinal cord
  • Lysosomal disorders are chronic and progressive, meaning they worsen over time. People with these disorders may have life-limiting symptoms and a significantly shortened life span
How are lysosomal disorders treated?

Although there are currently no cures for lysosomal disorders such as Gaucher disease, Hunter syndrome and Pompe disease, there are several approved treatments. Each approach has its own advantages and limitations.

Enzyme replacement therapy, or ERT, is the standard of care for lysosomal disorders. As the name implies, ERT is designed to replace the enzyme that is missing or defective in people with lysosomal disorders.

Among the advantages of ERTs:

  • They slow progression of disease and in some cases can reverse damage to certain organs.
  • ERTs can significantly improve symptoms. For example, in people living with Gaucher disease, ERTs can dramatically reduce the size of enlarged spleens and livers.
  • ERTs have established a favorable safety profile and are generally well-tolerated over decades of use.

ERTs also have limitations:

  • Enzyme replacement does not address the underlying cause of lysosomal disorders and does not halt the overall progression of disease.
  • ERTs do not cross the blood-brain barrier and therefore cannot address neurological symptoms that may result from disease progression. For example, people with Gaucher disease type 1 have a significantly higher risk of developing Parkinson’s disease.
  • Once ERTs are infused, the body begins to immediately break them down in the liver as well as in the circulation. That’s why people on ERT typically must undergo lifelong biweekly infusions of the enzyme treatment.

Substrate reduction therapy, or SRT, is designed to limit the production of the specific toxic molecules that build up within the cell. This type of oral medication is approved for the treatment of Gaucher disease and is typically given to people with less severe forms of the disease.

In addition to ERT and SRT, individuals living with lysosomal disorders may also take medications to help with symptoms such as pain, high blood pressure or depression.

WE BELIEVE It’s time to transform the standard of care

The first ERTs came to market in the early 1990s and transformed care for patients with lysosomal disorders. Yet many patients on chronic ERT still experience life-limiting symptoms.

Thirty years later, we believe it’s past time for a new generation of treatments. At AVROBIO, we aim to give people with genetic disease freedom for life.

Our investigational therapies are designed with the potential to free patients from disease progression, from painful and debilitating symptoms and from the burden of chronic treatment regimens with a single dose.

Learn more about our personalized gene therapy approach.

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  7. National Institutes of Health. Genetics Home Reference: Cystinosis. Accessed November 20, 2019.


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