Understanding Mucopolysaccharidosis I (MPS I): A Comprehensive Guide to Diagnosis, Management, and Impact

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Mucopolysaccharidosis I (MPS I): A Rare and Debilitating Genetic Disorder


Mucopolysaccharidosis I (MPS I) is a rare genetic disorder that affects the body’s ability to break down certain complex sugars called glycosaminoglycans (GAGs). This accumulation of GAGs leads to progressive damage to various tissues and organs throughout the body. MPS I is also known as Hurler syndrome or Scheie syndrome, depending on the severity of the symptoms.

Genetics and Prevalence

MPS I is caused by mutations in the IDUA gene, which provides instructions for producing an enzyme called alpha-L-iduronidase (IDUA). This enzyme is responsible for breaking down a specific type of GAG called dermatan sulfate and heparan sulfate. When the IDUA enzyme is deficient or absent, these GAGs accumulate in cells and tissues, leading to the characteristic symptoms of MPS I.

The disorder is inherited in an autosomal recessive pattern, meaning that both parents must carry the mutated gene for a child to be affected. The frequency of MPS I in the general population is approximately 1 in 100,000 newborns.

Types of MPS I

There are three main types of MPS I, classified based on the severity of symptoms:

  • Hurler syndrome (MPS IH): The most severe form, characterized by profound mental and physical disabilities, skeletal deformities, and a shortened life expectancy.
  • Hurler-Scheie syndrome (MPS IHS): An intermediate form with less severe mental and physical impairments and a longer life expectancy than Hurler syndrome.
  • Scheie syndrome (MPS IS): The mildest form, with primarily musculoskeletal symptoms and a normal life expectancy.


The symptoms of MPS I can vary depending on the type and severity of the disorder. However, common signs and symptoms include:

  • Physical:
    • Coarse facial features (broad nose, thick lips, prominent forehead)
    • Skeletal deformities (short stature, kyphosis, genu valgum)
    • Cloudy corneas
    • Enlarged liver and spleen
    • Joint stiffness
    • Respiratory problems
  • Mental:
    • Intellectual disability
    • Behavioral problems
    • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Other:
    • Cardiac problems
    • Hearing loss
    • Respiratory infections


MPS I is diagnosed through a combination of clinical examination, family history, and biochemical and genetic testing. A blood test can measure the levels of GAGs in the body, and genetic testing can identify the specific mutations in the IDUA gene.


There is currently no cure for MPS I. Treatment focuses on managing the symptoms and improving the quality of life for affected individuals. Treatment options include:

  • Enzyme replacement therapy (ERT): Replaces the missing IDUA enzyme through intravenous infusions. ERT can slow the progression of the disorder and improve some symptoms.
  • Hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT): Involves transplanting healthy stem cells into the patient’s bone marrow. HSCT can correct the enzyme deficiency and improve overall health.
  • Supportive therapies: Includes physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and cardiac and respiratory care.


The prognosis for MPS I varies depending on the type and severity of the disorder. Individuals with Hurler syndrome typically have the shortest life expectancy, while those with Scheie syndrome have a relatively normal life expectancy. With early diagnosis and treatment, the prognosis can be improved for all types of MPS I.

Research and Future Directions

Ongoing research is focused on developing new and more effective treatments for MPS I. This includes gene therapy, enzyme replacement therapies, and pharmacological interventions that target specific aspects of the disease.


Mucopolysaccharidosis I is a complex and debilitating genetic disorder that affects multiple organ systems. Early diagnosis and treatment are crucial for improving the prognosis and quality of life for affected individuals. Advances in research and the development of new therapies offer hope for improved outcomes in the future.

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