Limb abnormalities are one of the most common and visible phenotypic effects of several human teratogens. The specific effects are different for most teratogens and include effects on limb morphogenesis (thalidomide, warfarin, phenytoin, valproic acid) and the effect of vascular disruption on a limb that had formed normally (misoprostol, chorionic villus sampling, and phenytoin). Either duplication (preaxial polydactyly of hands and feet) or deficiency (absence of thumb) is a common effect of thalidomide; no other human teratogen identified to date has this effect on the developing limb. Procedures during pregnancy, including chorionic villus sampling and dilation and curettage, produce defects of vascular disruption. For common exposures, such as alcohol and cocaine, it has been difficult to confirm objectively the exposure during embryogenesis and to ascribe specific limb defects that are produced. The molecular basis for the limb defects produced by the recognized human teratogens remains unknown.
Copyright 2002 Wiley-Liss, Inc.