Thalidomide Embryopathy

Causes

What causes thalidomide embryopathy?

Thalidomide embryopathy is caused by exposure of a developing fetus to the drug thalidomide at important times during development. Thalidomide is considered a teratogen.

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How does thalidomide cause thalidomide embryopathy?

Is there a time period when exposure to thalidomide is most harmful to a developing fetus to cause thalidomide embryopathy?

Does the amount, or dose of thalidomide affect the severity or type of symptoms that result in thalidomide embryopathy?

How does thalidomide cause thalidomide embryopathy?

Despite extensive research on thalidomide, the teratogenic mechanisms, or how the drug causes the symptoms seen in thalidomide embryopathy, are still unclear. Some researchers believe it may involve inhibiting DNA transcription, and as a result, disrupts the creation of blood vessels. However, there is no clear answer on how thalidomide causes the observed symptoms.

Is there a time period when exposure to thalidomide is most harmful to a developing fetus to cause thalidomide embryopathy?

There is a critical period during development in which exposure to thalidomide can cause the most damage to a developing fetus. This time period is between 34-50 days after the last menstrual period, or 20-36 days after fertilization.

References
  • W. Lenz and K. Knapp, "Thalidomide embryopathy," Archives of Environmental Health, vol. 5, pp. 100-105, 1962.
Does the amount, or dose of thalidomide affect the severity or type of symptoms that result in thalidomide embryopathy?

Thalidomide is different from other teratogens in the fact that the dosage, or amount, a woman takes does not seem to affect the type or severity of the effects seen. The timing of the exposure, rather than the amount of the exposure seems to be the most significant factor in the type and severity of the defects seen.

References
  • Miller, Marilyn T., and Kerstin Strömland. "Teratogen update: thalidomide: a review, with a focus on ocular findings and new potential uses." Teratology60.5 (1999): 306-321.

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