The anorectal and urogenital systems arise from a common embryonic structure termed cloaca. Subsequent development leads to the division/septation of the cloaca into the urethra, urinary bladder, vagina, anal canal, and rectum. Defective cloacal development and the resulting anorectal and urogenital malformations are some of the most severe congenital anomalies encountered in children. In the most severe form in females, the rectum, vagina, and urethra fail to develop separately and drain via a single common channel known as a cloaca into the perineum. In this review, we summarize our current knowledge of embryonic cloaca development and malformation, and compare them to what has already been described in the literature. We describe the use of mouse models of cloaca malformation to understand which signaling pathways and cellular mechanisms are involved in the process of normal cloaca development. We also discuss the embryological correlation of the epithelial and stromal histology found in step sections of the common channel in 14 human cloaca malformations. Finally, we highlight the significance of these findings, compare them to prior studies, and discuss their implications for the pediatric surgeons. Understanding and identifying the molecular basis for cloaca malformation could provide foundation for tissue engineering efforts that in the future would reflect better surgical reconstruction and improved quality of life for patients.
- Anorectal malformation
- Common channel
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health