Research perspectives in the etiology of congenital anorectal malformations using data of the International Consortium on Anorectal Malformations: Evidence for risk factors across different populations
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Purpose: The recently established International Consortium on Anorectal Malformations aims to identify genetic and environmental risk factors in the etiology of syndromic and nonsyndromic anorectal malformations (ARM) by promoting collaboration through data sharing and combined research activities. Methods: The consortium attempts to recruit at least 1,000 ARM cases. DNA samples are collected from case-parent triads to identify genetic factors involved in ARM. Several genetic techniques will be applied, including SNP arrays, gene and whole exome sequencing, and a genome-wide association study. Questionnaires inquiring about circumstances before and during pregnancy will be used to obtain environmental risk factor data. Results: Currently, 701 ARM cases have been recruited throughout Europe. Clinical data are available from all cases, and DNA samples and questionnaire data mainly from the Dutch and German cases. Preliminary analyses on environmental risk factors in the Dutch and German cohort found associations between ARM and family history of ARM, fever during first trimester of pregnancy and maternal job exposure to cleaning agents and solvents. Conclusion: First results show that both genetic and environmental factors may contribute to the multifactorial etiology of ARM. The International Consortium on Anorectal Malformations will provide possibilities to study and detect important genes and environmental risk factors for ARM, ultimately resulting in better genetic counseling, improved therapies, and primary prevention.