Pelizaeus-Merzbacher Disease

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What is Pelizaeus-Merzbacher disease?

Pelizaeus-Merzbacher disease (PMD) is a rare, progressive, and degenerative central nervous system disorder that deteriorates coordination, motor abilities, and cognitive function. The disease is one of a group of disorders known as the leukodystrophies, which affect growth of the myelin sheaththe fatty covering that wraps around and protects nerve fibers in the brain.

PMD is caused by a mutation in the gene that controls the production of a myelin protein called proteolipid protein-1 (PLP1). Severity and onset of the disease ranges widely depending on the type of PLP1 mutation. PMD is one in a spectrum of diseases associated with PLP1, which also includes spastic paraplegia type 2 (SPG2). Symptoms of PLP1-related disorders range from severe central nervous system involvement to progressive weakness and stiffness of the legs.

There is no cure for PMD, nor is there a standard course of treatment. Treatment is symptomatic and supportive and may include medication for movement disorders. The prognosis for those with the severe forms of PMD is poor due to the progressive deterioration. Individuals with the mild form may have an average life span.

Learn About Clinical Trials
Clinical trials are studies that allow us to learn more about disorders and improve care. They can help connect patients with new and upcoming treatment options.

How can I or my loved one help improve care for people with Pelizaeus-Merzbacher disease?

PMD is considered rare, which often means there is not much information known about it. This is usually the case because doctors and researchers do not see many people with the disorder, which makes it hard to learn from them through observations or large studies.

Consider participating in a clinical trial so clinicians and scientists can learn more about PMD and related disorders. Clinical research uses human volunteers to help researchers learn more about a disorder and perhaps find better ways to safely detect, treat, or prevent disease.

All types of volunteers are needed—those who are healthy or may have an illness or disease—of all different ages, sexes, races, and ethnicities to ensure that study results apply to as many people as possible, and that treatments will be safe and effective for everyone who will use them.

For information about participating in clinical research visit NIH Clinical Research Trials and You. Learn about clinical trials currently looking for people with PMD at

Where can I find more information about Pelizaeus-Merzbacher disease?

The following organizations and resources help individuals, families, friends, and caregivers of people living with PMD:

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Order publications from the NINDS Catalog
The NINDS Publication Catalog offers printed materials on neurological disorders for patients, health professionals, and the general public. All materials are free of charge, and a downloadable PDF version is also available for most publications.