Background: Nephropathic cystinosis, a hereditary lysosomal storage disorder caused by dysfunction of the lysosomal cotransporter cystinosin, leads to cystine accumulation and cellular damage in various organs, particularly in the kidney. Close therapeutic monitoring of cysteamine, the only available disease-modifying treatment, is recommended. White blood cell cystine concentration is the current gold standard for therapeutic monitoring, but the assay is technically demanding and is available only on a limited basis. Because macrophage-mediated inflammation plays an important role in the pathogenesis of cystinosis, biomarkers of macrophage activation could have potential for the therapeutic monitoring of cystinosis. Methods: We conducted a 2-year prospective, longitudinal study in which 61 patients with cystinosis who were receiving cysteamine therapy were recruited from three European reference centers. Each regular care visit included measuring four biomarkers of macrophage activation: IL-1β, IL-6, IL-18, and chitotriosidase enzyme activity. Results: A multivariate linear regression analysis of the longitudinal data for 57 analyzable patients found chitotriosidase enzyme activity and IL-6 to be significant independent predictors for white blood cell cystine levels in patients of all ages with cystinosis; a receiver operating characteristic analysis ranked chitotriosidase as superior to IL-6 in distinguishing good from poor therapeutic control (on the basis of white blood cell cystine levels of <2 nmol 1/2 cystine/mg protein or ≥2 nmol 1/2 cystine/mg protein, respectively). Moreover, in patients with at least one extrarenal complication, chitotriosidase significantly correlated with the number of extrarenal complications and was superior to white blood cell cystine levels in predicting the presence of multiple extrarenal complications. Conclusions: Chitotriosidase enzyme activity holds promise as a biomarker for use in therapeutic monitoring of nephropathic cystinosis.
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