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Birth Defects Malformations Dysmorphic Genetic Syndromes



"BIRTH DEFECT"
     
The idea in "birth defects" has evolved beyond the original 
emphasis on structural congenital malformations.

Birth Defects are defined broadly by The March of Dimes Birth 
Defects Foundation, The World Alliance of Non-Governmental 
Organizations for the Prevention of Birth Defects and by most U.S. 
governmental and academic organizations.

The current "operating" definition is:

"ANY STRUCTURAL OR FUNCTIONAL ANOMALY 
MANIFESTING AT ANY AGE
OF ENVIRONMENTAL OR GENETIC NATURE  (inherited or not) 
DUE TO CAUSES ACTING BEFORE BIRTH"

Such definition includes                 sug> MEAN MEANING
mental retardation and                   sug> OLIGOPHRENIA
other functional disorders such as       sug> DYSFUNCTION
chemical metabolic disorders as well as  sug> DYSPLASIA
many forms of childhood cancer           sug> ONCOLOGY
connective tissue                        sug> DYSGENESIS
degenerative disorders                   sug> DYSPLASIA
deformations if due to prenatal causes   sug> DYSMORPHOLOGY  

History:
The March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation evolved from the 
The Poliomyelitis Foundation (Infantile Paralysis), organized by
President F D ROOSEVELT [#] and his partner Basil O'CONNOR [#]. 

After the Foundation reached its goal - the development of Poliomyelitis 
vaccines - the organization shifted its attention toward arthritis. 
It was then that Dr. Josef Warkany called attention that congenital 
malformations could be caused by environmental (ecology) factors now 
called teratogens.

For centuries it was believed that the womb (uterus or maternal matrix) 
safeguarded the unborn from environmental damage. Scientific facts 
shattered this dogma. No longer could birth "defects" be seen as 
solely due to "parental" "genetic" flaws, an idea exploited by enthusiasts 
advocating state imposed "eugenic" policies. 

The work of Josef Warkany and others  gave rise to modern Teratology 
or the scientific discipline dedicated to the study of congenital 
malformations. 

Other profound social changes followed the thalidomide disaster, a 
medication that caused myriads of infants to be born with limb and other 
malformations. Soon, scientists also realized that most malformed embryos 
are unable to survive and are spontaneously aborted, a natural process 
called teratothanasia, to denote natural spontaneous prenatal thanasia 
or death. Moreover, those who are born with birth defects are likely to
perish prematurely or lead a life burdened by chronic or serious disability.
Birth Defects remain the leading cause of infant mortality in all developed 
societies without distinction of race, ethnicity, or wealth.

Josef Warkany prevailed on the then National Arthritis Foundation to shift 
its attention toward children with "Birth Defects". From the onset, legal 
and other advisors favored the term "birth defect" rather than congenital 
"malformations" or "anomaly", perhaps because the term was considered to 
have a greater resonance. Since then, the March of Dimes Birth Defects 
Foundation has been dedicated to the prevention of "congenital" "anomalies" 
so broadly defined as to include premature births.

Literature:
Among common ancient myths or DELUSIONS persisting to our times, are concerns 
that maternal impressions, pleasant or not, may be capable of disrupting a 
developing baby. Such mythical ideas are upheld even by authors of widely
read books.

Art: 
A depictions by artists of various Malformations was published by Grosse 
Verlag Berlin 1986 under the tutelage of Drs. J. KUNZE and I. NIPPERT. 
Many artists, Velazquez in particular, painted portraits of individuals 
with bone disorders who gained political prominence.

Note: 
Dysmorphism, Dysmorphology denotes altered proportions and shapes.
Deformation conveys ideas of external mechanical forces altering morphogenesis.
Dysplasia is used to describe abnormal "tissue" formation or growth. 
Neoplasia describes growth of "new" tissue.
Plastic conveys the idea of an ability to take any shape.
Elastic implies the above plus an ability to stretch or change volume.



(part 4/4 which is preceded by birth, birthday and birth control)

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