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Research shows fetal ear shape may indicate rare genetic condition

baby ear
Credit: Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain

First linked to mutations in the CHD7 gene in 2004, CHARGE syndrome is a rare genetic disorder occurring in approximately 1 in 8,500 to 15,000 births. According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), CHARGE syndrome is an acronym for coloboma of eyes (C), heart disease (H), atresia of the choanae (A), retarded growth and mental development (R), genital anomalies (G), and ear malformations and hearing loss (E). Diagnosis is often challenging because this disorder manifests differently across individuals.

A recent study published in Clinical Case Reports explored the detection of CHARGE syndrome through prenatal ultrasound observations of fetal ear abnormalities. Spearheaded by Yu Liang from Shijiazhuang Fourth Hospital and Sijie He, a specialized scientist from BGI Genomics, this research underscores the crucial role of early genetic screening and prenatal diagnostics.

Case background and research method

A , expecting her but with no previous live births, visited Shijiazhuang Fourth Hospital for a prenatal check-up. Ultrasound scans were performed at weeks 22, 28, 33, and 35 of the pregnancy.

The initial detection of an abnormal ear shape at 22 weeks gestation prompted suspicions of CHARGE syndrome. However, the pregnant woman declined invasive prenatal testing after genetic counseling. After birth, comprehensive assessments, including physical exams and whole exome sequencing, confirmed the diagnosis.

Key findings

  1. Potentially difficult to diagnose: The CHD7 mutation is not listed in the public Genome Aggregation Database and has been predicted to be harmful by renowned genetic analysis tools like CADD and Mutation Taster. Without genetic testing, it is difficult to determine the condition during pregnancy and even after birth. In this case, the parents declined further invasive prenatal testing. Due to the absence of other significant supporting evidence, it was difficult to confirm the CHARGE syndrome through ultrasound alone.
  2. Phenotypes vary: The phenotypes were highly variable, and no clear correlation has been found between the severity of the phenotype and in specific domains of the CHD7 protein. Despite a month of nutritional support, the disease continued to progress. Eventually, the parents refused any curative treatment and allowed for only supportive care.
  3. Mostly de novo, sometimes inherited: To confirm a suspected genetic disorder, Trio-Whole-Exome Sequencing (Trio-WES) were applied on the newborn and the parents. The test revealed a nonsense mutation chr8-61,654,397-C-T (GRCh37/hg19) in CHD7 gene (ENST00000524602 c.406C > T, p.Q136X in exon 2) of the newborn, which was absent in the parents. This particular mutation is likely to cause an early disruption in protein formation, potentially leading to significant functional impairments as outlined by American College of Medical Genetics and Genomics (ACMG) mutation interpretation guidelines.

The importance of early diagnosis

CHARGE syndrome, a congenital anomaly with a , underscores the importance of early prenatal diagnosis for effective management. The researchers recommend conducting ultrasound exams between the 20th and 24th weeks of pregnancy to detect fetal ear abnormality.

If any irregularities in the ear's shape, size, or position are detected, a specialized genetic test for the CHD7 gene associated with rare diseases should be carried out to confirm the diagnosis. This approach provides a window for timely interventions and enhances our understanding of rare genetic conditions, improving future diagnostic protocols.

He, specialized scientist, BGI Genomics, further advises, "For cases where abnormalities are found during ultrasound examination during pregnancy, it is recommended that pregnant women receive genetic counseling, prenatal diagnosis and to confirm the diagnosis, which can effectively control birth defects."

More information: Yu Liang et al, CHARGE syndrome with early fetal ear abnormalities: A case report, Clinical Case Reports (2024). DOI: 10.1002/ccr3.8670

Provided by BGI Genomics
Citation: Research shows fetal ear shape may indicate rare genetic condition (2024, May 7) retrieved 15 June 2024 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2024-05-fetal-ear-rare-genetic-condition.html
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