Author(s): Lammer EJ, Chen DT, Hoar RM, Agnish ND, Benke PJ,
Abstract Share this page
Abstract Retinoic acid, an analogue of vitamin A, is known to be teratogenic in laboratory animals and has recently been implicated in a few clinical case reports. To study the human teratogenicity of this agent, we investigated 154 human pregnancies with fetal exposure to isotretinoin, a retinoid prescribed for severe recalcitrant cystic acne. The outcomes were 95 elective abortions, 26 infants without major malformations, 12 spontaneous abortions, and 21 malformed infants. A subset of 36 of the 154 pregnancies was observed prospectively. The outcomes in this cohort were 8 spontaneous abortions, 23 normal infants, and 5 malformed infants. Exposure to isotretinoin was associated with an unusually high relative risk for a group of selected major malformations (relative risk = 25.6; 95 per cent confidence interval, 11.4 to 57.5). Among the 21 malformed infants we found a characteristic pattern of malformation involving craniofacial, cardiac, thymic, and central nervous system structures. The malformations included microtia/anotia (15 infants), micrognathia (6), cleft palate (3), conotruncal heart defects and aortic-arch abnormalities (8), thymic defects (7), retinal or optic-nerve abnormalities (4), and central nervous system malformations (18). The pattern of malformation closely resembled that produced in animal studies of retinoid teratogenesis. It is possible that a major mechanism of isotretinoin teratogenesis is a deleterious effect on cephalic neural-crest cell activity that results in the observed craniofacial, cardiac, and thymic malformations.
This article was published in N Engl J Med
and referenced in Journal of Stem Cell Research & Therapy