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Adult polyglucosan body disease (APBD) is a late-onset disease caused by intracellular accumulation of polyglucosan bodies, formed due to glycogen-branching enzyme (GBE) deficiency. To find a treatment for APBD, we screened 1,700 FDA-approved compounds in fibroblasts derived from APBD-modeling GBE1-knockin mice. Capitalizing on fluorescent periodic acid-Schiff reagent, which interacts with polyglucosans in the cell, this screen discovered that the flavoring agent guaiacol can lower polyglucosans, a result also confirmed in APBD patient fibroblasts. Biochemical assays showed that guaiacol lowers basal and glucose 6-phosphate-stimulated glycogen synthase (GYS) activity. Guaiacol also increased inactivating GYS1 phosphorylation and phosphorylation of the master activator of catabolism, AMP-dependent protein kinase. Guaiacol treatment in the APBD mouse model rescued grip strength and shorter lifespan. These treatments had no adverse effects except making the mice slightly hyperglycemic, possibly due to the reduced liver glycogen levels. In addition, treatment corrected penile prolapse in aged GBE1-knockin mice. Guaiacol's curative effects can be explained by its reduction of polyglucosans in peripheral nerve, liver, and heart, despite a short half-life of up to 60 minutes in most tissues. Our results form the basis to use guaiacol as a treatment and prepare for the clinical trials in APBD.

Original publication




Journal article


JCI Insight

Publication Date





Metabolism, Neurodegeneration, Neuromuscular disease, Therapeutics