Tay-Sachs disease is a fatal genetic lipid storage disorder in which harmful quantities of a fatty substance called ganglioside G M2 build up in tissues and nerve cells in the brain. The condition is caused by insufficient activity of an enzyme called beta-hexosaminidase A that catalyzes the biodegradation of acidic fatty materials known as gangliosides . Gangliosides are made and biodegraded rapidly in early life as the brain develops.

Presently there is no treatment for Tay-Sachs disease. Anticonvulsant medicine may initially control seizures. Other supportive treatment includes proper nutrition and hydration and techniques to keep the airway open. Children may eventually need a feeding tube.

Even with the best of care, children with Tay-Sachs disease usually die by age 4, from recurring infection.

Prepared by the National Institutes of Health