BACKGROUND: Although representing two distinct disease entities, Niemann-Pick disease type C (NP-C) disease and acid sphingomyelinase deficiency (ASMD) share several phenotypic features. The lack of biomarkers was responsible in the past of diagnostic delay. Recently, plasma oxysterols, cholestan-3β,5α,6β-triol (Triol) and 7-ketocholesterol (7-KC) and lysosphingolipids, Lyso-sphingomyelin (Lyso-SM) and Lysosphingomyelin-509 (Lyso-SM-509), have been proposed as diagnostic biomarkers. We aimed to assess the diagnostic power of the two biomarkers categories and to evaluate possible correlations with patients' age and clinical phenotypes.
PATIENTS AND METHODS: We analyzed plasma oxysterols and lysosphingolipids in patients affected by NP-C and ASMD, and compared with healthy controls.
RESULTS: Oxysterols were always increased in both NP-C and ASMD. In NP-C, Lyso-SM and Lyso-SM-509 were increased in 70%, and 100% of patients, respectively. Biomarkers negatively correlated with patients' age, with highest levels in early-infantile, intermediate in the late-infantile and lowest in the juvenile phenotype. In ASMD, lysosphingolipids were both increased, with a greater order of magnitude than in NP-C, with highest levels in chronic-neurovisceral vs visceral phenotype.
CONCLUSIONS: Lysosphingolipids are useful biomarkers for a rapid and precise diagnosis, allowing clear distinction between NP-C and ASMD. They are more reliable biomarkers than oxysterols and correlate with patients' age and clinical phenotype.