Thalidomide-induced limb defects: resolving a 50-year-old puzzle

Bioessays. 2009 Dec;31(12):1327-36. doi: 10.1002/bies.200900103.


Despite the recent discovery that thalidomide causes limb defects by targeting highly angiogenic, immature blood vessels, several challenges still remain and new ones have arisen. These include understanding the drug's species specificity, determining molecular target(s) in the endothelial cell, shedding light on the molecular basis of phocomelia and producing a form of the drug that is clinically effective without having side effects. Now that the trigger of thalidomide-induced teratogenesis has been uncovered, a framework is proposed, incorporating and uniting previous models of thalidomide action, explaining how thalidomide causes not just limb defects, but also all the other defects it induces.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • History, 20th Century
  • History, 21st Century
  • Humans
  • Limb Deformities, Congenital / chemically induced*
  • Thalidomide / adverse effects*
  • Thalidomide / chemistry
  • Thalidomide / history


  • Thalidomide