Human Abnormal Development

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Amniocentesis.jpg

Introduction

How and why do things go wrong in development?

These notes cover abnormalities that can occur during development often described as congenital defects or birth defects. There are many different ways that developmental abnormalities can occur the 3 major types are Genetic (inherited), Environmental (maternal) and Unknown (not determined) derived abnormalities. The environmental factors that cause or lead to any of these abnormalities are described as Teratogens.

While genetic abnormalites will have well-defined impacts upon development, environmentally derived effects can be harder to define and often variable depending on many different factors (timing, exposure level, and the combination effects with other factors). This combination effect can also be seen between genetic and environmental interacting to give an even broader spectrum of both major and minor abnormalities.

It is the group now classified as "unknown causes" that require further research to place them in one of the two other real categories.

Abnormality Links: abnormal development | abnormal genetic | abnormal environmental | Unknown | teratogens | ectopic pregnancy | cardiovascular abnormalities | coelom abnormalities | endocrine abnormalities | gastrointestinal abnormalities | genital abnormalities | head abnormalities | integumentary abnormalities | musculoskeletal abnormalities | limb abnormalities | neural abnormalities | neural crest abnormalities | placenta abnormalities | renal abnormalities | respiratory abnormalities | hearing abnormalities | vision abnormalities | twinning | Developmental Origins of Health and Disease |  ICD-11
Historic Embryology  
1915 Congenital Cardiac Disease | 1917 Frequency of Anomalies in Human Embryos | 1920 Hydatiform Degeneration Tubal Pregnancy | 1921 Anencephalic Embryo | 1921 Rat and Man | 1966 Congenital Malformations

Prenatal diagnosis are the clinical tools used to determine both normal and abnormal development. There are a growing number of new diagnostic techniques that are being applied to human embryonic development.

Diagnosis Links: Prenatal Diagnosis | pregnancy test | amniocentesis | chorionic villus sampling | ultrasound | Alpha-Fetoprotein | Pregnancy-associated plasma protein-A | Fetal Blood Sampling | Magnetic Resonance Imaging | Computed Tomography | Non-Invasive Prenatal Testing | Fetal Cells in Maternal Blood | Preimplantation Genetic Screening | Comparative Genomic Hybridization | Genome Sequencing | Neonatal Diagnosis | Category:Prenatal Diagnosis | Fetal Surgery | Classification of Diseases | Category:Neonatal Diagnosis

| 2010 BGD Phase 2 Tutorial - Applied Embryology and Teratology

Often not considered, is that pregnancy itself can also expose abnormalities in the mother (congenital heart disease, diabetes, reproductive disorders) that until then had gone undetected. This section of notes also includes links to prenatal diagnosis techniques, twinning and statistical information relating to abnormalities at birth from several different countries.

Statistics - Top Ten

Australian Data 1981-92

The ten most frequently reported birth defects in Victoria between 2003-2004 (More? Australian Statistics - Victoria)

  1. Hypospadias
  2. Obstructive Defects of the Renal Pelvis or Obstructive Genitourinary Defects
  3. Ventricular Septal Defect
  4. Congenital Dislocated Hip
  5. Trisomy 21 or Down syndrome
  6. Hydrocephalus
  7. Cleft Palate
  8. Trisomy 18 or Edward Syndrome - multiple abnormalities of the heart, diaphragm, lungs, kidneys, ureters and palate 86% discontinued.
  9. Renal Agenesis/Dysgenesis - reduction in neonatal death and stillbirth since 1993 may be due to the more severe cases being identified in utero and being represented amongst the increased proportion of terminations (approximately 31%).
  10. Cleft Lip and Palate - occur with another defect in 33.7% of cases.

Neural Tube Defects

Neural tube defects that were just outside the top ten most common birth defects but are widely known.

Spina Bifida - (73%) of parents choose to discontinue a pregnancy affected by spina bifida.

Anencephaly - (94%) of parents choose to discontinue a pregnancy affected by anencephaly.

(Data from the Victorian Perinatal Data Collection Unit)

Australian Birth Anomalies System

"The national collation and reporting of birth anomalies data has been suspended in recent years due to concerns about data quality and comparability."
  • Variability among states and territories in scope of birth anomalies data collections
    • sources of birth anomalies notifications
    • definitions and classifications used
    • method of data collection
    • available resources
  • Variability among the states and territories in the timing and method of the provision of birth anomalies data to the AIHW National Perinatal Statistics Unit (NPSU) for national collation and reporting.
  • New Australian Birth Anomalies System should be data for birth anomalies detected up to 1 year of age
    • including data on terminations of pregnancies with birth anomalies
    • regardless of gestational age (i.e. including less than 20 weeks gestation)
  • System will initially be based on data from the states able to detect birth anomalies at least up to 1 year of age
    • NSW, VIC, WA and SA
    • further extending the period of detection in the future

(Modified from Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW))

Links: Australian Congenital Anomalies Monitoring System (ACAMS) | Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW)

Teratology

Now consider how different environmental effects during pregnancy may influence developmental outcomes. The terms listed below are often used to describe these environmental effects

  • Teratogen (Greek, teraton = monster) any agent that causes a structural abnormality (congenital abnormalities) following fetal exposure during pregnancy. The overall effect depends on dosage and time of exposure. (More? Critical Periods of Development)
  • Absolute risk the rate of occurrence of an abnormal phenotype among individuals exposed to the agent. (e.g. fetal alcohol syndrome)
  • Relative risk the ratio of the rate of the condition among the exposed and the nonexposed. (e.g. smokers risk of having a low birth weight baby compared to non-smokers) A high relative risk may indicate a low absolute risk if the condition is rare.
  • Mutagen a chemical or agent that can cause permanent damage to the deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) in a cell. DNA damage in the human egg or sperm may lead to reduced fertility, spontaneous abortion (miscarriage), birth defects and heritable diseases.
  • Fetotoxicant is a chemical that adversely affects the developing fetus, resulting in low birth weight, symptoms of poisoning at birth or stillbirth (fetus dies before it is born).
  • Synergism when the combined effect of exposure to more than one chemical at one time, or to a chemical in combination with other hazards (heat, radiation, infection) results in effects of such exposure to be greater than the sum of the individual effects of each hazard by itself.
  • Toxicogenomics the interaction between the genome, chemicals in the environment, and disease. Cells exposed to a stress, drug or toxicant respond by altering the pattern of expression of genes within their chromosomes. Based on new genetic and microarray technologies.

Genetic (inherited)

Environmental (maternal)

Environmental Links: Introduction | low folic acid | iodine deficiency | Nutrition | Drugs | Australian Drug Categories | USA Drug Categories | thalidomide | herbal drugs | Illegal Drugs | smoking | Fetal Alcohol Syndrome | TORCH | viral infection | bacterial infection | fungal infection | zoonotic infection | toxoplasmosis | Malaria | maternal diabetes | maternal hypertension | maternal hyperthermia | Maternal Inflammation | Maternal Obesity | hypoxia | biological toxins | chemicals | heavy metals | air pollution | radiation | Prenatal Diagnosis | Neonatal Diagnosis | International Classification of Diseases | Fetal Origins Hypothesis

Critical Periods

The table below identifies windows of time that exposure to teratogens can lead to developmental abnormalities (anomalies, congenital).

Conceptus Embryonic development (weeks) Fetal period (weeks)
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
16
20-36
38
Early zygote.jpg Week2 001 icon.jpg Stage9 sem4c.jpg Stage13 sem1c.jpg Stage15 bf1c.jpg Stage17 bf1c.jpg Stage19 bf1c.jpg Stage23 bf1c.jpg
Neural
Stage2.jpg Heart
Upper limbs
Lower limbs
Ear
Eye
CSt3.jpg Palate
Teeth
Week2 001 icon.jpg External genitalia
Loss Major abnormalities Functional and Minor abnormalities

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Cite this page: Hill, M.A. (2019, December 11) Embryology Human Abnormal Development. Retrieved from https://embryology.med.unsw.edu.au/embryology/index.php/Human_Abnormal_Development

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© Dr Mark Hill 2019, UNSW Embryology ISBN: 978 0 7334 2609 4 - UNSW CRICOS Provider Code No. 00098G