Hereditary amyloid polyneuropathy

Rebecca E Traub MD (

Dr. Traub of The University of North Carolina received honorariums from Akcea Therapeutics, Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, and CSL Behring as an advisory board member.

Louis H Weimer MD, editor. (

Dr. Weimer of Columbia University has received consulting fees from Roche.

Originally released December 13, 2018; last updated February 20, 2020; expires February 20, 2023

This article includes discussion of hereditary amyloid polyneuropathy, familial amyloid polyneuropathy, hereditary amyloidosis, transthyretin amyloidosis, TTR amyloidosis, TTR-FAP, and hTTR amyloidosis. The foregoing terms may include synonyms, similar disorders, variations in usage, and abbreviations.


Hereditary amyloidosis is a disease caused by mutations in the transthyretin gene that leads to systemic deposition of amyloid protein. Although patients have multisystem involvement of amyloidosis, cardiomyopathy and peripheral neuropathy with autonomic neuropathy are typically the most prominent disease manifestations and the primary drivers of disability and mortality. New small interfering RNA, or antisense oligonucleotide therapies approved by the United States food and drug administration, reduce the production of transthyretin protein and slow the progression of hereditary amyloid polyneuropathy and, in some cases, improve measures of neuropathy severity and associated disability. Although hereditary transthyretin amyloidosis is a rare disease, it is an exciting model for developing new treatments for genetic disease in neurology and in medicine broadly.

Key points


• Hereditary amyloid polyneuropathy primarily refers to patients with mutations in the transthyretin gene although mutations in other genes may present with amyloidosis and neuropathy.


• The symptoms of transthyretin-associated familial amyloid polyneuropathy are those of a sensorimotor polyneuropathy, with progressive sensory loss and weakness, often with prominent autonomic neuropathy. Neuropathy is often accompanied by amyloid cardiomyopathy.


• TTR-FAP is diagnosed and confirmed with genetic testing for TTR gene mutations. Amyloidosis may be detected on tissue biopsy in workup of idiopathic neuropathy or cardiomyopathy, which may lead to suspicion of a genetic diagnosis.


• Amyloid stabilizing agents, including diflunisal and tafamidis, may slow the progression of TTR-FAP, and liver transplantation has traditionally been used to reduce production of mutant transthyretin protein.


• New small interfering RNA and antisense oligonucleotide therapies that reduce TTR gene expression are promising new treatments to slow the progression of TTR-FAP-associated disease.

Historical note and terminology

Rudolf Virchow first described amyloid deposits in 1858, noting their starch-like appearance and reaction to iodine and sulfuric acid. Congo red staining of amyloid was first described in 1922, and the typical apple-green birefringence was noted in 1927 in patients with Alzheimer disease (Sipe and Cohen 2000).

Transthyretin protein is named in reference to its two primary transport functions: binding thyroxine and retinol-binding protein (Saraiva 2001). The TTR gene was sequenced in 1974 by Kanda and colleagues; at that time the transthyretin protein was referred to as plasma thyroxine-binding prealbumin (Kanda et al 1974). In 1991, Benson described 10 TTR gene mutations associated with familial amyloid polyneuropathy (Benson 1991). The number of TTR gene mutations associated with disease has grown. At the time of the writing of this review, 52 mutations associated with familial amyloid polyneuropathy were reported on the Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man website.

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