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Current understanding of hypospadias: relevance of animal models


Hypospadias is a congenital abnormality of the penile urethra with an incidence of approximately 1:200-1:300 male births, which has doubled over the past three decades. The aetiology of the overwhelming majority of hypospadias remains unknown but appears to be a combination of genetic susceptibility and prenatal exposure to endocrine disruptors. Reliable animal models of hypospadias are required for better understanding of the mechanisms of normal penile urethral formation and hence hypospadias. Mice and/or rats are generally used for experimental modelling of hypospadias, however these do not fully reflect the human condition. To use these models successfully, researchers must understand the similarities and differences between mouse, rat and human penile anatomy as well as the normal morphogenetic mechanisms of penile development in these species. Despite some important differences, numerous features of animal and human hypospadias are shared: the prevalence of distal penile malformations; disruption of the urethral meatus; disruption of urethra-associated erectile bodies; and a common mechanism of impaired epithelial fusion events. Rat and mouse models of hypospadias are crucial to our understanding of hypospadias to ultimately reduce its incidence through better preventive strategies.

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