Familial multiple sclerosis and other inherited disorders of the white matter

Bernadette Kalman, Thomas P. Leist

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

14 Citations (Scopus)


Background: An objective demonstration of lesions disseminated in time and space remains the core of the last revision of diagnostic criteria for multiple sclerosis (MS), but this update is now empowered by a weighted use of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which results in an earlier and more unambiguous diagnosis ("MS," "not MS," or "possible MS"). Nevertheless, the exclusion of other entities still remains an integral element of the diagnostic process. Review Summary: Exclusion of genetic disorders can be challenging in some cases with familial recurrence of MS, particularly when the transmission is mimicking a mendelian or a maternal pattern of inheritance. Vice versa, many forms of mendelian leukodystrophies and leukoencephalopathies present with juvenile or adult onset, progressive or relapsing-remitting courses, intrafamilial phenotypic heterogeneity and MRI signs of multifocal white matter (WM) pathology, features potentially leading to a temporary confusion with MS. With the recent availability of disease modifying medications in MS, the development of specific molecular therapies in inherited WM disorders, and the general recognition of the effectiveness of early treatments, the accuracy of initial diagnostic assessment has become critical. Conclusion: Considering the importance of disease specific treatments, here we review the major characteristics of familial MS and some of the inheritable diseases of the WM. Although no direct genetic link between MS and these WM abnormalities is known, molecular data from the field of rare genetic disorders may also provide some experimental paradigms to a further exploration of MS.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)201-215
Number of pages15
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jul 1 2004



  • Demyelination
  • Gene mutations
  • Hypomyelination
  • Leukodystrophy
  • Leukoencephalopathy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology

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