Current evidence on the pathogenesis of Hirschprung's disease, then, favours the 'abnormal microenvironment' hypothesis wherein the developing and migrating normal neural crest cells confront a segmentally abnormal and hostile microenvironment in the colon. This hypothesis would account both for the congenital absence of ganglion cells in the wall of colon and also for the range of enteric neuronal abnormalities encountered including neuronal dysplasia, hypoganglionosis, and zonal aganglionosis. The abnormal constitution of the mesenchymal and basement membrane extracellular matrix in the affected segment of colon is presumably genetically determined and further understanding of the pathogenesis of this disorder will emerge as molecular geneticists characterise the specific genes and gene products associated with Hirschprung's disease. Advances in this field should permit gene probes to be developed to facilitate prenatal and postnatal diagnosis.
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