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Reviewed October 2013
What is aceruloplasminemia?
Aceruloplasminemia is a disorder in which iron gradually accumulates in the brain and other organs. Iron accumulation in the brain results in neurological problems that generally appear in adulthood and worsen over time.
People with aceruloplasminemia develop a variety of movement problems. They may experience involuntary muscle contractions (dystonia) of the head and neck, resulting in repetitive movements and contortions. Other involuntary movements may also occur, such as rhythmic shaking (tremors), jerking movements (chorea), eyelid twitching (blepharospasm), and grimacing. Affected individuals may also have difficulty with coordination (ataxia). Some develop psychiatric problems and a decline of intellectual function (dementia) in their forties or fifties.
In addition to neurological problems, affected individuals may have diabetes mellitus caused by iron damage to cells in the pancreas that make insulin, a hormone that helps control blood sugar levels. Iron accumulation in the pancreas reduces the cells' ability to make insulin, which impairs blood sugar regulation and leads to the signs and symptoms of diabetes.
Iron accumulation in the tissues and organs results in a corresponding shortage (deficiency) of iron in the blood, leading to a shortage of red blood cells (anemia). Anemia and diabetes usually occur by the time an affected person is in his or her twenties.
Affected individuals also have changes in the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye (retina) caused by excess iron. The changes result in small opaque spots and areas of tissue degeneration (atrophy) around the edges of the retina. These abnormalities usually do not affect vision but can be observed during an eye examination.
The specific features of aceruloplasminemia and their severity may vary, even within the same family.
How common is aceruloplasminemia?
Aceruloplasminemia has been seen worldwide, but its overall prevalence is unknown. Studies in Japan have estimated that approximately 1 in 2 million adults in this population are affected.
What genes are related to aceruloplasminemia?
Mutations in the CP gene cause aceruloplasminemia. The CP gene provides instructions for making a protein called ceruloplasmin, which is involved in iron transport and processing. Ceruloplasmin helps move iron from the organs and tissues of the body and prepares it for incorporation into a molecule called transferrin, which transports it to red blood cells to help carry oxygen.
CP gene mutations result in the production of ceruloplasmin protein that is unstable or nonfunctional, or they prevent the protein from being released (secreted) by the cells in which it is made. When ceruloplasmin is unavailable, transport of iron out of the body's tissues is impaired. The resulting iron accumulation damages cells in those tissues, leading to neurological dysfunction, and the other health problems seen in aceruloplasminemia.
Read more about the CP gene.
How do people inherit aceruloplasminemia?
This condition is inherited in an autosomal recessive pattern, which means both copies of the gene in each cell have mutations. The parents of an individual with an autosomal recessive condition each carry one copy of the mutated gene, but they typically do not show signs and symptoms of the condition.
Where can I find information about diagnosis or management of aceruloplasminemia?
These resources address the diagnosis or management of aceruloplasminemia and may include treatment providers.
General information about the diagnosis and management of genetic conditions is available in the Handbook. Read more about genetic testing, particularly the difference between clinical tests and research tests.
To locate a healthcare provider, see How can I find a genetics professional in my area? in the Handbook.
Where can I find additional information about aceruloplasminemia?
You may find the following resources about aceruloplasminemia helpful. These materials are written for the general public.
You may also be interested in these resources, which are designed for healthcare professionals and researchers.
What other names do people use for aceruloplasminemia?
What if I still have specific questions about aceruloplasminemia?
Where can I find general information about genetic conditions?
The Handbook provides basic information about genetics in clear language.
These links provide additional genetics resources that may be useful.
What glossary definitions help with understanding aceruloplasminemia?
anemia ; ataxia ; atrophy ; autosomal ; autosomal recessive ; cell ; chorea ; deficiency ; dementia ; diabetes ; diabetes mellitus ; dystonia ; familial ; gene ; hormone ; insulin ; involuntary ; iron ; molecule ; neurological ; opaque ; oxygen ; pancreas ; population ; prevalence ; protein ; recessive ; retina ; tissue ; transferrin
You may find definitions for these and many other terms in the Genetics Home Reference Glossary.
See also Understanding Medical Terminology.
References (12 links)
The resources on this site should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. Users seeking information about a personal genetic disease, syndrome, or condition should consult with a qualified healthcare professional. See How can I find a genetics professional in my area? in the Handbook.