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Lotz-Havla, Amelie S.; Christmann, Tara; Parhofer, Klaus G.; Maier, Esther M.; Havla, Joachim ORCID: 0000-0002-4386-1340 (2023): Optical Coherence Tomography: Retinal Imaging Contributes to the Understanding of Brain Pathology in Classical Galactosemia. Journal of Clinical Medicine, 12 (5): 2030. ISSN 2077-0383

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It remains unresolved whether central nervous system involvement in treated classical galactosemia (CG) is a progressive neurodegenerative process. This study aimed to investigate retinal neuroaxonal degeneration in CG as a surrogate of brain pathology. Global peripapillary retinal nerve fibre layer (GpRNFL) and combined ganglion cell and inner plexiform layer (GCIPL) were analysed in 11 CG patients and 60 controls (HC) using spectral–domain optical coherence tomography. Visual acuity (VA) and low-contrast VA (LCVA) were acquired to test visual function. GpRNFL and GCIPL did not differ between CG and HC (p > 0.05). However, in CG, there was an effect of intellectual outcome on GCIPL (p = 0.036), and GpRNFL and GCIPL correlated with neurological rating scale scores (p < 0.05). A single-case follow-up analysis showed GpRNFL (0.53–0.83%) and GCIPL (0.52–0.85%) annual decrease beyond the normal aging effect. VA and LCVA were reduced in CG with intellectual disability (p = 0.009/0.006), likely due to impaired visual perception. These findings support that CG is not a neurodegenerative disease, but that brain damage is more likely to occur early in brain development. To clarify a minor neurodegenerative component in the brain pathology of CG, we propose multicenter cross-sectional and longitudinal studies using retinal imaging.

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