Hunter Syndrome (MPS II)

Hunter Syndrome (MPS II)

Table of Contents

Alternate Terms for Hunter Syndrome (MPS II)

Hunter Syndrome, a medical condition, is also known by several other names including:

– Hunter Syndrome

– Deficiency of I2S

– Lack of Iduronate 2-sulfatase


These various terms all refer to the same genetic disorder, providing different perspectives on its characteristics and underlying causes.

In vitro fertilization (IVF) and preimplantation genetic testing (PGT) are significant advancements in the realm of reproductive medicine and genetics, particularly for individuals at risk of transmitting genetic disorders like Hunter Syndrome (MPS II). For couples with a known risk of passing on Hunter Syndrome (MPS II) to their offspring, IVF coupled with PGT offers a proactive approach. In this process, eggs are fertilized in a lab setting, and the resulting embryos are screened for the specific genetic mutations associated with Hunter Syndrome (MPS II). This enables the selection of embryos without the disorder for implantation, significantly reducing the likelihood of the child inheriting Hunter Syndrome (MPS II). Thus, IVF and PGT provide a powerful combination for family planning, particularly for those with a genetic predisposition to this condition, allowing them to minimize the risk of genetic transmission while achieving pregnancy.

Understanding Hunter Syndrome: A Genetic Disorder Overview

Hunter syndrome, a rare genetic condition, hinders the body’s ability to effectively break down certain sugar molecules. Accumulation of these molecules in organs and tissues over time can result in significant physical and mental developmental impacts.

The term “Muco” in mucopolysaccharides relates to the gel-like nature of these sugar molecules. “Poly” indicates the presence of numerous such molecules, and “saccharide” broadly refers to their sugar component. Under normal conditions, the body continuously cycles through the creation and breakdown of these substances, a process needing specific enzymes for effective recycling.

Medical professionals categorize Hunter syndrome into two primary forms: severe and mild. The severe type, encompassing about 60% of cases, is characterized by rapid progression and intellectual impairments. In its most extreme manifestation, children with severe Hunter syndrome experience significant functional difficulties around the ages of 6 to 8.

Hunter syndrome is part of a broader category known as mucopolysaccharidoses, and it’s also referred to as mucopolysaccharidosis type II or MPS II.

Delineating Types of Hunter Syndrome

Hunter syndrome manifests in two distinct forms:

– Severe Hunter Syndrome: In this form, the disease rapidly advances. By approximately age eight, affected children:

   – Encounter challenges with basic cognitive and functional abilities.

   – Develop respiratory and cardiac complications, along with skeletal weakening and joint stiffness.

   – May exhibit behavioral issues and sleep disturbances.

– Mild Hunter Syndrome: This variant progresses more slowly. Children with mild MPS II typically:

   – Do not face cognitive impairments.

   – Experience ongoing cardiac and respiratory issues extending into adulthood.

This differentiation in the severity and progression of Hunter syndrome underscores the need for tailored medical approaches and management strategies for affected individuals.

Prevalence and Demographics of Hunter Syndrome (MPS II)

Hunter syndrome, a notably rare condition, predominantly affects children assigned male at birth (AMAB). It is diagnosed in approximately 1 in every 100,000 to 170,000 AMAB children. While individuals assigned female at birth (AFAB) are generally carriers of the genetic mutation responsible for MPS II, they rarely exhibit the condition. A notably higher frequency of this syndrome has been observed in the Jewish population residing in Israel. The disorder is inherited in an X-linked recessive pattern, and males with this condition typically do not reproduce.

There are two types of Hunter syndrome: MPS IIA and MPS IIB. MPS IIA is commonly identified in children between the ages of 2 and 4, while MPS IIB often goes undiagnosed until adolescence or even adulthood. Over a decade from 1992 to 2002, there were 52 instances of MPS II recorded in newborns in the United Kingdom.

This statistical overview highlights the rarity and specific demographic patterns associated with Hunter syndrome.

Risk Factors for Hunter Syndrome

The likelihood of developing Hunter syndrome increases if there is a family history of the disorder. The risk of inheriting this condition is notably higher in children assigned male at birth (AMAB) compared to those assigned female at birth (AFAB). The basis for this disparity is the genetic link of Hunter syndrome to the X chromosome.

Females, assigned at birth, receive two X chromosomes. In cases where one X chromosome carries the defective gene responsible for Hunter syndrome, the other X chromosome often compensates by producing the enzyme that’s deficient in individuals with the disorder. On the other hand, males, assigned at birth, possess only one X chromosome. Therefore, the presence of the defective gene on their single X chromosome increases their susceptibility to developing the disease.

This genetic explanation underlines why Hunter syndrome is more commonly observed in males and highlights the importance of understanding familial genetic history in assessing the risk of this rare disorder.

Recognizing the Symptoms of Hunter Syndrome

Hunter syndrome typically presents no visible symptoms in newborns. However, as affected children grow, signs of the disorder may become increasingly evident.

The manifestation of symptoms varies significantly. Some children exhibit only a few, mild symptoms, while others face severe disease complications.

Early Symptoms May Include:

– Corneal clouding, which affects the eye’s front part.

– Recurrent upper respiratory infections.

– Enlargement of tonsils and adenoids.

– Coarse features in facial appearance.

– Development of hernias.

Progressive Symptoms:

– Appearance of unique white skin growths.

– A notably deep, hoarse voice.

– Heart chamber enlargement, known as ventricular hypertrophy.

– Enlargement of liver and spleen, or hepatosplenomegaly.

– Spinal cord compression.

– Reduced growth leading to short stature.

– Abnormalities in skeletal and joint structures.

– Decline in intellectual or developmental capabilities.

In Severe Early-Onset Form:

– Aggressive and hyperactive behaviors.

– Progressive deterioration of mental functions.

– Profound intellectual disability.

– Uncontrolled, jerky body movements.

In Late (Mild) Form:

– Mild or no intellectual impairments.

Common Symptoms in Both Forms:

– Development of carpal tunnel syndrome.

– Progressive coarsening of facial features.

– Gradual hearing loss.

– Increased body hair growth.

– Joint stiffness.

– Enlarged head size.

Specific Impact on Boys:

– Cognitive and learning difficulties emerging between ages 2 to 4.

– Challenges in speech.

– Behavioral issues, including restlessness and aggression.

Despite these challenges, children with Hunter syndrome often display a cheerful and affectionate demeanor.

This comprehensive overview outlines the range of symptoms associated with Hunter syndrome, emphasizing the variability and progression of the condition.

Understanding the Genetic Origins of MPS II

Hunter syndrome, also known as MPS II, arises from mutations, also referred to as variants, in the IDS gene. This gene is crucial as it encodes instructions for producing the I2S enzyme. This enzyme plays a pivotal role in breaking down complex sugar molecules known as glycosaminoglycans (GAGs), originally termed mucopolysaccharides, which is how this condition gets its name.

When the IDS gene is mutated, it results in diminished or completely absent I2S enzyme activity. This deficiency causes GAGs to accumulate within cells, especially in the lysosomes, which are cell compartments responsible for digesting and recycling a variety of molecules. Disorders like MPS II, where there is an accumulation of substances in the lysosomes, are classified as lysosomal storage disorders.

This build-up of GAGs leads to an enlargement of the lysosomes, accounting for the observed organ and tissue enlargement in individuals with MPS II. Researchers theorize that the excess GAGs may disrupt other proteins’ functions within the lysosomes and impede cellular molecule movement. Additionally, the accumulation in lysosomes may instigate the release of cytokines, inflammatory molecules, potentially accelerating the disease’s progression.

MPS II manifests in two forms:

  1. Early-Onset, Severe Form: This type typically emerges shortly after age 2, leading to more serious symptoms.
  2. Late-Onset, Mild Form: This variant presents milder symptoms that appear later in life.

This explanation delineates the genetic basis of MPS II, highlighting how specific gene mutations lead to the disease’s characteristic symptoms and its varied forms.


Genetic Transmission of MPS II

MPS II, or Hunter syndrome, follows an X-linked recessive pattern of inheritance, distinguishing it from other mucopolysaccharidoses that are autosomal recessive. In X-linked recessive disorders, females typically carry the gene mutation without exhibiting symptoms, while males are predominantly affected. Since the disorder is linked to the X chromosome, women pass down the affected gene, affecting male offspring who inherit the X chromosome.

In contrast, autosomal recessive disorders require both parents to carry and transmit the same affected gene to their child for the disorder to manifest.

Understanding Genetic Mutations and Inheritance:

– Humans typically carry 5 to 10 mutated genes in each cell.

– Genetic issues arise when a dominant gene is affected or when both genes in a recessive pair carry mutations.

– Genes, serving as unique biological instructions, are located on chromosomes, of which there are usually 23 pairs in humans.

– The 23rd pair, the sex chromosomes, differ between males and females, with females having two X chromosomes and males having one X and one Y chromosome.

Inheritance Pattern of MPS II:

– Each pregnancy carries an independent risk of inheriting MPS II, regardless of previous siblings’ health.

– A female carrier of MPS II has a 50% chance of having a son with the disease and a 50% chance of having a daughter who is a carrier.

– Sisters and maternal aunts of a male with MPS II may also carry the gene, thus having a similar risk profile for their offspring.

Importance of Genetic Counseling:

– Genetic counseling is invaluable for parents of a child with MPS II, offering insights into familial risk and the possibility of informing extended family members.

– Prenatal screening tests like amniocentesis and chorionic villus sampling can determine if a fetus is affected by MPS II.

– Carrier testing for females is available but not always fully accurate or feasible in every case.

– Pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) is an option for families seeking to prevent passing MPS II to their offspring, involving embryo chromosome analysis before IVF implantation.

This comprehensive overview highlights the genetic aspects of MPS II, underscoring the importance of understanding the disorder’s unique inheritance pattern and the role of genetic counseling in managing familial risks.

Diagnostic Procedures for Hunter Syndrome

Hunter syndrome, or MPS II, is diagnosed through a series of specific tests:

  1. Urine and Plasma GAG Analysis:

   – This initial screening involves measuring glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) in both urine and plasma. Elevated levels of dermatan sulfate (DM) and heparan sulfate (HS) are indicators of lysosomal storage diseases, including MPS II. However, urinary GAG levels can be misleading, showing negative results in milder cases or not correlating with disease severity. Additionally, these levels can fluctuate with renal function changes.

  1. Iduronate Sulfatase (IDS) Testing:

   – The pivotal test for confirming Hunter syndrome is assessing IDS enzyme levels. These can be evaluated in various cell cultures, such as leukocytes, fibroblasts, and dried blood cells, as well as in plasma or serum. Extremely low or undetectable IDS enzyme levels are common in severe cases of the disease. In pregnancies deemed high-risk for MPS II, prenatal testing can be conducted by analyzing IDS levels in chorionic villus samples. Testing other lysosomal enzymes is also essential to exclude other lysosomal storage diseases.

  1. Molecular Genetic Testing:

   – This definitive test is particularly useful for patients with atypical symptoms or inconclusive lab results. It is also employed for females exhibiting symptoms suggestive of MPS II, as the condition is occasionally reported in girls.

  1. Imaging Studies:

   – A skeletal survey is advised for patients showing clinical signs of MPS II. Characteristic X-ray findings, known as dysostosis multiplex, include distinctive changes in the skull, joints, spine, and limbs. Notable features are the J-shaped sella turcica deformation, oar-shaped ribs with spinal deformities, vertebral body notches, shortened long bone diaphyses, irregular epiphyseal ossification in long bones, and abnormalities in tarsal and carpal bones.

Physical Examination and Additional Tests:

   – The physical examination may reveal a range of symptoms, including abnormal retinal appearance, reduced iduronate sulfatase enzyme in blood serum or cells, heart murmurs with valve dysfunction, enlarged liver and spleen, hernias in the groin area, and joint contractures due to stiffness.

This comprehensive diagnostic approach is crucial in accurately identifying and differentiating Hunter syndrome from other similar conditions, thereby guiding effective treatment strategies.

Alternative Diagnoses to Consider alongside Hunter Syndrome

When evaluating a patient for Hunter syndrome, it’s important to consider several other conditions that present with similar symptoms. These differential diagnoses include:

  1. Sanfilippo Syndrome (MPS III): This form of mucopolysaccharidosis is characterized by a deficiency in one of the enzymes needed to break down glycosaminoglycans, leading to symptoms that can be mistaken for Hunter syndrome.
  2. Sly Syndrome (MPS VII): Another mucopolysaccharidosis, Sly syndrome, shares several clinical features with Hunter syndrome but is caused by a different enzymatic deficiency.
  3. Mucopolysaccharidosis Type I H/S (Hurler/Scheie syndrome): This condition is a spectrum disorder that can present in various severities, often resembling Hunter syndrome in its symptoms and progression.
  4. Mucopolysaccharidosis Type IH (Hurler syndrome): A severe form of MPS I, Hurler syndrome, shares many clinical features with severe Hunter syndrome, especially in early childhood.
  5. Mucopolysaccharidosis Type IS (Scheie syndrome): The milder form of MPS I, Scheie syndrome, can sometimes be confused with the milder form of Hunter syndrome due to overlapping symptoms.
  6. Multiple Sulfatase Deficiency: This rare genetic disorder affects multiple enzymes, including those deficient in Hunter syndrome, leading to a complex array of symptoms similar to MPS II.

Recognizing these alternative diagnoses is crucial for healthcare providers to ensure accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment planning for patients presenting with symptoms of a mucopolysaccharidosis disorder.

Challenges Arising from Hunter Syndrome

Hunter syndrome, varying in intensity, can lead to a range of health issues. Medical interventions, including medication and surgical options, are often employed to address these challenges:

– Respiratory Difficulties: The thickening of tissue and obstruction in air passages can lead to complications in breathing.

– Cardiac Conditions: Heart-related issues are a common complication associated with this syndrome.

– Skeletal and Joint Irregularities: Abnormalities in bones and joints are prevalent, affecting mobility and posture.

– Neurological Decline: A gradual decrease in cognitive abilities is a significant concern in patients with Hunter syndrome.

– Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: This nerve-related condition can cause discomfort and impair hand function.

– Hernias: The development of hernias, particularly in the groin area, is a common complication.

– Seizures: Neurological disruptions leading to seizures can occur in some cases.

– Behavioral Difficulties: Patients might exhibit behavioral issues, impacting their daily interactions and activities.

– Progressive Hearing Loss: Hearing capability can deteriorate over time, affecting communication and quality of life.

– Reduced Daily Functioning: There may be a gradual loss of the ability to perform routine daily activities independently.

Managing these complications effectively is crucial to improving the quality of life for those affected by Hunter syndrome.

Approaches to Managing Hunter Syndrome

Treatment for Hunter syndrome is highly individualized, focusing on the specific needs of each patient and typically involves a combination of enzyme replacement therapy (ERT) and management of specific symptoms. This approach demands a multi-disciplinary medical team, with treatment plans varying based on the child’s age and the unique characteristics of their condition.

– Enzyme Replacement Therapy (ERT): This therapy involves administering a synthetic version of the deficient enzyme, known as idursulfase (Elaprase®), usually through weekly intravenous infusions. ERT aims to enhance mobility, joint flexibility, respiratory function, physical growth, and normalize hair and facial appearance. However, it’s important to note that ERT is more effective in children who do not have neurological involvement, as it does not significantly impact the disease’s progression in the brain.

– Bone Marrow and Umbilical Cord Blood Transplants: These procedures have been explored for the early-onset form of Hunter syndrome, but their effectiveness varies. They introduce cells capable of producing the missing enzyme, either from a matched bone marrow donor or from umbilical cord blood stem cells.

– Emerging Genetic Therapies: Clinical trials involving gene editing are in progress, offering potential future treatment avenues for those with Hunter syndrome.

– Symptom Management: Medications and surgical interventions can alleviate some of the syndrome’s complications. For instance, melatonin might be prescribed to aid sleep.

– Supportive Care Techniques: These included:

  – Physical Therapy (PT): To enhance mobility and address joint stiffness, with provision of assistive devices like walkers or wheelchairs as needed.

  – Speech Therapy: Beneficial for addressing speech and language challenges, particularly vital considering the potential impact of MPS II on hearing and speech.

  – Prescribed Medications: To improve sleep quality or prevent seizures.

  – Breathing Aids: Devices to help maintain open airways and facilitate breathing.

The implementation of these treatments and support measures is crucial in managing the diverse effects of Hunter syndrome and improving the quality of life for affected individuals.

Navigating the Risk of Hunter Syndrome

Hunter syndrome, rooted in genetics, is not preventable. For parents with a child already diagnosed with this condition, considering future family planning often involves consulting a genetic counselor. This expert can provide insights into the likelihood of passing the condition to future children.

Genetic counseling is particularly advised for couples planning to start a family, especially if there’s a known history of MPS II in their family. This counseling can offer guidance and information about prenatal testing options. Additionally, testing is available for female relatives of male individuals affected by Hunter syndrome, to determine if they are carriers of the condition.

Outlook for Hunter Syndrome

At present, a definitive cure for Hunter syndrome remains elusive. The prognosis varies significantly based on the severity of the condition. In its most severe form, the syndrome can be life-limiting, often resulting in a lifespan ranging from 10 to 20 years. Individuals with the milder, late-onset variant of Hunter syndrome typically have a longer life expectancy, often living between 20 to 60 years.

Despite the lack of a cure, various treatments are available that can substantially aid in managing the symptoms and enhancing the quality of life for those with Hunter syndrome. These treatments include medications, physical therapy, and surgical interventions, all focused on alleviating the challenges posed by the condition and improving daily living.

Navigating Life with Hunter Syndrome

Adjusting daily activities to accommodate the progressive symptoms of Hunter syndrome is often necessary. Your child’s healthcare team will guide you on the best activities and therapies to help manage these symptoms effectively.

When to Reach Out to Your Child’s Healthcare Provider:

If your child starts to exhibit signs or developmental delays associated with Hunter Syndrome, it’s crucial to contact their healthcare provider promptly. Early intervention is key to mitigating irreversible damage to organs and tissues.

Key Questions to Discuss with Your Child’s Healthcare Provider:

If your child is diagnosed with Hunter syndrome, consider asking their healthcare provider the following questions to better understand and manage the condition:

  1. What is the severity of my child’s Hunter syndrome?
  2. Can you explain the immediate and long-term outlook for my child’s condition?
  3. How will Hunter syndrome impact my child’s daily life and future?
  4. What treatment options are available for managing my child’s condition?

These questions can help you gain a clearer understanding of your child’s condition and the best ways to support their health and well-being.

Call now to make an appointment