Disorders of Urea Formation

The urea cycle is a series of enzyme reactions that removes waste nitrogen from the body, allowing it to be excreted in the urine as urea. Disorders of the enzymes of the urea cycle disrupt this pathway, increasing blood ammonia (hyperammonemia). Hyperammonemia results in mental retardation, and acute episodes can progress to seizures, coma, and death. These conditions are inherited in an autosomal recessive pattern, except for ornithine trans-carbamylase deficiency, which is X-linked, affecting males more severely than females. Treatment for these disorders includes limiting dietary protein (the major source of nitrogen intake) and using agents (such as phenylacetate) that provide an alternate mechanism to remove waste nitrogen (through excretion of phenylacetyl-glutamine in urine). Liver transplantation may also be effective in controlling blood ammonia in these conditions.

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