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Ann Med. 1998 Feb;30(1):66-74.

Hirschsprung's disease genes and the development of the enteric nervous system.

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Institute of Biotechnology, Developmental Biology Research Programme, University of Helsinki, Hospital for Children and Adolescents, Finland.


Hirschsprung's disease or aganglionic megacolon causes chronic, congenital obstipation at an incidence of 1 per 5000 live births. Two approaches have been vital to the present understanding of the pathogenesis and genetic background of the disease: disease linkage analyses and mouse models of aganglionic megacolon. Because the increasing number of transgenic or natural mouse strains with congenital megacolon has led to mutation screening in Hirschsprung's disease patients, almost every second patient could now receive a genetic explanation for his/her disease. The known disease genes include tyrosine kinase receptor Ret, endothelin receptor B and its ligand endothelin 3. In addition, mutations have been found in the gene encoding the glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor, the ligand for Ret, but these may only have a modifier effect. The mouse models have also provided insight into the developmental mechanisms of the normal intestinal innervation. We combine here the present clinical data on the gene mutations in Hirschsprung's disease with the experimental molecular biology data, and formulate a hypothesis on the pathogenesis of this multigenic-multifactorial disease.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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