MAY 20, 2024 12:48 PM PDT

Congenital Issues are Far More Common in Kids with Neurodevelopmental Disorders

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

Scientists have found that children who have neurodevelopmental conditions are also more likely to report congenital abnormalities, like heart or urinary tract defects, compared to children without neurodevelopmental issues. These findings, which used health data from more than 50,000 children, have been reported in Nature Medicine.

Image credit: Pixabay

About two to three percent of individuals have some type of neurodevelopmental disorder, such as autism spectrum disorder or a cognitive problem. Many times, these neurodevelopmental disorders are accompanied by other health problems, or they are one aspect of a multifaceted condition that creates special needs for these kids.

This work began with an analysis of health data from about 1,500 children who had been diagnosed with a neurodevelopmental disorder by the Clinical Genetics department at Radboud University Medical Center within the past ten years.

But the researchers knew that to learn more about these cases, they would need to analyze more of them. They performed a meta-analysis that combed the medical literature for reports about neurodevelopmental disorders, going back to 1938. There were about 9,000 studies, including 70 articles that contained high-quality data that was relevant to this study. In total, over 50,000 cases were included in the final dataset. When the investigators assessed the data, they found that there are at least ten times more common congenital abnormalities in children with neurodevelopmental disorders compared to children without neurodevelopmental issues. These congenital disorders affected different parts of the body including the skull, heart, urinary tract, or hips.

These findings could help guide treatment for these children. "For many syndromes that cause a neurodevelopmental disorder, the question arises as to what extent other health problems are associated," said first study author and researcher Lex Dingemans. "Now that the numbers of these problems are known in children with neurodevelopmental disorders, we can much better determine what is actually part of the syndrome and what is not."

Most neurodevelopmental disorders are due to genetics, and there are over 1,800 genes that have been associated with one or more of those disorders.

"To understand these genetic causes well, we globally use databases that combine DNA data from more than 800,000 people," said study co-author Lisenka Vissers, a professor of Translational Genomics at Radboud. "Our database is a complement to this. With it, researchers worldwide can link genetic knowledge to the occurrence of specific health problems in neurodevelopmental disorders."

Sources: Radboud University, Nature Medicine

About the Author
Bachelor's (BA/BS/Other)
Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on over 30 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 70 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
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